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Alternative Names Return to topWry neck; Loxia
Definition Return to top
Torticollis is a twisted neck in which the head is tipped to one side, while the chin is turned to the other.
Causes Return to top
Torticollis may be:
If the condition occurs without a known cause, it is called idiopathic torticollis.
Torticollis may develop in childhood or adulthood. Congenital torticollis (present at birth) may occur if the fetus' head is in the wrong position while growing in the womb, or if the muscles or blood supply to the fetus' neck are injured.
Symptoms Return to top
Exams and Tests Return to top
Various tests or procedures may be done to rule out possible causes of head and neck pain. A physical examination will show a visible shortening of the neck muscles and the head will tilt toward the affected side while the chin points to the opposite side.
Treatment Return to top
Treatment of congenital torticollis involves stretching the shortened neck muscle. Passive stretching and positioning are treatments used in infants and small children. Such treatments are often successful, especially if started within 3 months of birth.
Surgery to correct the neck muscle may be done in the preschool years, if other treatment methods fail.
Acquired torticollis is treated by identifying the underlying cause of the disorder. Application of heat, traction to the cervical spine, and massage may help relieve head and neck pain. Stretching exercises and neck braces may help with muscle spasms.
Medications used to treat this condition include an anticholinergic drug called baclofen. Injection of botulinum toxin can temporarily relieve the torticollis, but repeat injections every 3 months are usually need. Surgery is rarely used.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
The condition may be easier to correct in infants and children. If the condition becomes chronic, numbness and tingling may develop as nerve roots become compressed in the neck. Botulinum toxin injections often provide substantial relief.
Possible Complications Return to top
Complications may include:
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if symptoms do not improve with treatment, or if new symptoms develop.
Prevention Return to top
While there is no known prevention, early treatment may prevent a worsening of the condition.
References Return to top
Spiegel DA, Hosalkar HS, Dormans JP, Drommond DS. The Neck. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007: chap. 679.
Marx J. Rosen’s Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 5th ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby; 2002:606.
Persing J. Prevention and management of positional skull deformities in infants. American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Practice and Ambulatory Medicine, Section on Plastic Surgery and Section on Neurological Surgery. Pediatrics. 2003; 112(1 Pt 1): 199-202.Update Date: 5/27/2008 Updated by: Sean O. Stitham, MD, private practice in Internal Medicine, Seattle, Washington; and Daniel B. Hoch, PhD, MD, Assistant Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.