January 17, 2014

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Torticollis and Plagiocephaly: What Every Parent Should Know

Infants are curious little creatures. However, due to their limited mobility, they spend most of their time just lying around watching the world go by.

While this may sound nice, did you know that spending too much time lying on its back isn’t good for a baby?

Before we go any further, we want to stress the importance of placing a baby on its back for sleeping. The Safe to Sleep campaign, formerly known as the Back to Sleep campaign, has had a tremendous impact on reducing sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related causes of infant death.

What we do want to focus on is the importance of changing a baby’s position throughout the day in order to prevent torticollois (twisted neck) and plagiocephaly (flat head syndrome).

If an infant spends too much time on his back, he will often lack initial head control, causing his head to easily roll or flop to one side. This can result in a tightening of a neck muscle that leads to a head tilt (torticollis) or a flattening of one side of the head (plagiocephaly).

The best way to prevent both issues from happening is to change a baby’s position often throughout the day between its back, tummy and each side. This will allow the soft infant skull to receive more equal forces of pressure to all sides of its head for overall rounding and symmetry.

You can also reduce the time your baby spends on his back by using devices such as:

  • Infant carriers, bouncy seats and swings
  • Baby walkers, exer-saucers, suspension-standing devices and johnny-jumpers
  • Bumbo baby seats

If you are concerned that your baby may have torticollis and/or plagiocephaly, there are signs and symptoms that you can look for. Does your baby:

  • Not like to be placed on its stomach?
  • “Flip” by arching instead of rolling with good control?
  • Show less reaching with the arm on the same side as the neck tilt?
  • Show tightness in its shoulders and trunk on side of tilt, causing limited turning?
  • Arch its head or spine when you bring it or place it in a sitting position?
  • Prefer to scoot forward on bottom or crawl with one knee down and the other foot down, instead of using his hands to crawl on both knees?

If you suspect your baby has either torticollis or plagiocephaly, schedule a visit with your child’s health care provider. Physical therapy from a trained, licensed therapist may be needed for your baby’s full recovery.

To learn more about physical therapy services for infants and toddlers with torticollis and/or plagiocephaly, contact the Epic Pediatric Therapy clinic nearest you.