Understanding Congenital Muscular Torticollis

Congenital Muscular Torticollis is a muscular condition seen in infants, which is treatable through a physiotherapy program focused on muscle stretching and strengthening.  Working with a Physical Therapist to perform the stretches will produce a faster result, providing a better foundation for improvement of skull symmetry, thus reducing stress for parents.

Q. What is Congenital Muscular Torticollis (CMT)?

A. CMT is a result of shortening of a muscle in the neck called the Sternocleidomastoid, or, SCM for short.  The infant holds his or her head tilted to one side, and rotated to the opposite side.  For example, if the left SCM is tight, the infant will side tilt to their left, but rotate to their right.  This would be referred to as a left torticollis.

Q.  How is CMT caused?

A. Typically caused due to a difficult labor, causes may include breech delivery, and the use of vacuum or forceps during delivery.

Q.  What is the primary goal of physiotherapy treatment for babies with CMT?

A.  To restore normal range of movement and strength in the neck, prevent facial and skull asymmetries, prevent skin breakdown, and ensure baby is reaching with both hands.

Q.  What are the types of physiotherapy treatment offered?

A.  Stretching of the SCM muscle (1 person and 2 person options).  Strengthening of the non-involved SCM muscle, as it typically becomes weak.  Education with respect to positioning, play, handling techniques, and the importance of tummy time.

Q. How long will my child need to receive treatment for CMT?

A. Treatment  typically lasts approximately  5 months, depending on the severity of the torticollis

More about Congenital Muscular Torticollis

– 3rd most common congenital musculoskeletal anomaly in infants, with a reported incidence of 0.4 – 2.0 %

– First born children are predominant among infants with CMT

– An increased risk of developmental plagiocephaly is also found among infants with CMT

– The incidence of plagiocephaly has increased since the 90’s when the campaign ‘back to sleep’ started.  Some authors report that the incidence is now 20% or greater

– For severe plagiocephaly and limited rotation, it is recommended that a physiotherapist perform the stretches versus the parents.

Referenced from research on Congenital Muscular Torticollis