Torticollis and plagiocephaly in newborns: causes and remedies

In this article we will talk about of the torticollis in newborns, of the link with plagiocephaly, of the causes and also of the remedies to give relief to the children who are affected from it.

Tortícolis y plagiocefalia en recién nacidos:

How many times did you find yourself with a stiff and aching neck? Probably more than once, after a chill or a night sleeping in an uncomfortable position.


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Torticollis is a pain that not only affects adults, but can affect children and babies as well. In such cases, it may not be just a simple contracture but a real congenital disorder.

Often in infants, torticollis goes hand in hand with plagiocephaly … and with the concerns of mothers and fathers who do not know how to solve the problem.

In this article we will talk about of the torticollis in newborns, of the link with plagiocephaly, of the causes and also of the remedies to give relief to the children who are affected from it.

Torticollis: causes and types in newborns

The torticollis is characterized by a deviation and lateral rotation of the head due to a contracture or injury of the neck muscles, which obviously can be accompanied by pain.

There are different types of torticollis and, as far as children are concerned, there are mainly two types that can affect them: the myogenic torticollis and the muscular torticollis.

Mycogenic torticollis

Myogenic torticollis is not due to particular postures taken by the baby but it is a congenital problem. This means that, upon careful observation, it can be evident from birth.

The cause of myogenic torticollis is the shortening of the neck muscles, only on one side. As a result, the child holds the head bent to one side and the face turned on the opposite side.

Why does this happen? Reasons may be different: it could be a stiff neck linked to diseases of the nervous, skeletal or sight systems. Or it can be caused by a wrong positioning of the baby in the uterus or by a long or particularly difficult labor and delivery.

Often the congenital myogenic torticollis is also associated with a facial asymmetry or the skull: we will explain in a moment how.

Muscular torticollis

The muscular torticollis of the child has the same characteristics and causes as that of the adult.

The infant may have held an incorrect posture during sleep, made a sharp movement with his head or even being struck by a chill.

In this case, however painful, the torticollis is always due to an excessive contraction of the lateral muscle, but is a transitory problem: it lasts no more than a few days and does not cause any particular aftermath.

What is the link between torticollis and plagiocephaly?

Plagiocephaly is a deformation of the skull of the newborn, which may have skeletal or positional causes. The latter can be linked to the problem of stiff neck in very small children. As we said before, there is often a link between congenital myogenic stiff neck and positional plagiocephaly.

Try to imagine a baby whose head is always bent on one side: surely it will sleep, leaning constantly on the same side. This posture, in the long run, can cause a flattening of its still soft skull.

Research have been made on the link between torticollis and plagiocephaly and it is now clear that, within a month, about a third of children with congenital stiff neck develops this deformation as well.

Sometimes plagiocephaly may not be a consequence of torticollis: some children simply have preferred resting positions and these, in the long run, can cause both positional plagiocephaly and torticollis.

If your child suffers from these problems, do not worry too much: there are many remedies that you can put in placein order to relieve him from pain and fix the situation!

Torticollis: remedies for your baby

Although the torticollis can disturb your child and make you worried, there are several solutions to tackle the problem. Obviously, the remedies change according to the type of torticollis you are dealing with.

Let’s see them in detail …

In case your child suffers from congenital mycogenic torticollis, the remedies are a bit complex to put in place, but in almost all cases they completely solve the problem, especially if they are put in place from the first months of life.

Of what kind of treatments are we talking about?

First of all physiotherapy and motor rehabilitation, which will help the baby to recover the ability to move and the right perception of space.

Or you can undertake an osteopathic treatment, also useful for treating plagiocephaly.

In rare cases, especially when the disorder is too late diagnosed, it may be necessary to perform a small surgery to bring the neck muscle back to normal.

In case of congenital stiff neck, to prevent the child from developing also a secondary plagiocephaly you can alternate his position during the hours of sleep. Or, more simply, you can make it rest with the head on an anti-plagiocephaly pillow … so you will sleep peacefully, too!

If your child has developed a muscular torticollis, there are several small measures you can take to help him feel better:

  • Keep his neck warm, with clothes or a heating pad.
  • Treat him with massages made with some arnica cream or with water treatments (whirlpools) with hot water.
  • When he’s awake, put him in a prone position to make him play and stimulate him by moving objects that can catch his interest from the side of his head where he struggles to turn around – this is a very useful exercise even in case of congenital stiff neck, because it is a kind of ” active physiotherapy“.
  • Give him an analgesic if the pain is too strong (in this case we advise you to ask the pediatrician).

Whatever the situation of your child, face it with serenity and confidence: with these remedies his stiff neck will improve quickly and will leave both him and you happy again!

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