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What causes infant torticollis?

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Quick Answer

A shortened neck muscle or a malformed cervical bone in the spine cause infant torticollis, according to WebMD. Torticollis usually occurs when the muscle that runs along the back of a baby's neck is damaged before or during birth. In some cases the muscle swells, and sometimes scar tissue forms, which shortens the muscle. Medical professionals refer to this condition as congenital torticollis.

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Full Answer

Congenital torticollis may cause an infant's chin to point toward one shoulder, while the back of the infant's head leans toward the opposite shoulder, explains WebMD. A baby with congenital torticollis may have difficulty moving her head and may exhibit a lump on her neck muscle. Doctors may use spinal X-rays to determine the cause of the problem, and they may examine a baby's hips because infants with torticollis sometimes experience abnormal hip development.

Doctors or physical therapists treat congenital torticollis by teaching parents how to perform stretching exercises on their baby's neck, notes WebMD. Parents learn to hold their baby during feeding in a way that encourages the baby to turn her head to the correct position. Other techniques parents use include placing toys in spots that force the baby to turn her head, and positioning the crib so that the baby must correctly turn her head to see the room. A few months of stretching normally resolves the issue, but doctors sometimes use surgery to lengthen the neck muscle.

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