Have you ever slept incorrectly and woken up with a stiff neck? Ouch! Now imagine a newborn that has spent months in utero with her head rotated.
New parents may notice that their baby tends to prefer to look in one direction. This is known as Torticollis and is defined as a shortening of one side of the neck muscles.
We cannot talk about torticollis without mentioning Plagiocephaly or Brachiocephaly. This is defined as flattening of the head. An infant’s skull is very soft, particularly in the first year of life; it can quickly change shape in response to pressure. This puts baby at risk for developing a flat spot, which in turn puts baby at risk for developing Torticollis.
In addition to her position in utero, Torticollis, Plagiocephaly and Brachiocephaly may be due to visual delays, cranial shape and postnatal positioning.
Early Intervention therapists have seen a significant increase in the number of referrals for Torticollis in the past few years. Parents are encouraged to place a baby on their back to sleep, which has significantly decreased deaths due to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). As a result, parents have become apprehensive about placing their babies on their bellies even while awake. With this loss of tummy time, we have seen a delay in key developmental milestones that are necessary in order for a baby to develop strength in their neck and upper body.
We have also noticed an increase in the use of plastic baby equipment such as bouncers and swings. Head and neck movements are limited while in this equipment. Spending large amounts of time in these devices puts a baby at risk for prolonged postures of their neck causing Torticollis.
Initiation of early intervention therapy is critical. TEIS Physical Therapists create individualized interventions involving repositioning and environmental set up to keep prolonged pressure off the head to allow normal growth. TEIS therapists can also incorporate stretches to prevent tightness of muscles before delays occur.
Our TEIS Physical Therapists have found that progress is accelerated when parents are trained and educated with hands-on skills and knowledge.