Bone, Joint and Muscle Conditions


What Is Torticollis?

Torticollis is a twisted and tilted neck. Torticollis can appear temporarily and go away again. It can also be present at birth (congenital).

There are several different types of torticollis:

Temporary torticollis

For most children, torticollis goes away after a day or two. All your child may need is some rest, and perhaps a towel wrapped around the neck to keep it still.

This temporary problem sometimes happens when your child's lymph nodes are hot and swollen (inflamed) after he has had an ear infection or a cold.

Torticollis can also develop if your child hurts his head or neck. The joints between the bones in the neck swell and become sore.

Fixed torticollis

Courtesy of 'Fundamentals of Pediatric Orthopedics,' © 2003 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins

Acute torticollis

Sometimes torticollis is permanent (fixed) because of a problem with muscles or bone structure.

In rare cases, fixed torticollis is caused by an abnormal area in the back part of the brain, or by a tumor i n the spinal cord.

Torticollis is sometimes caused by eye muscle imbalance or stomach acids that get into the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach (esophagus).

The faces of some children with fixed torticollis may look unbalanced or flattened (plagiocephaly). Children may also have mild delays in developing the ability to use their muscles (motor skills).

Learn more about plagiocephaly.

Muscular torticollis

Muscular torticollis is the most common type of fixed torticollis. It happens when your child's neck muscles are especially tight on one side, or if something has caused scarring on one side of his neck. The tight muscles or scarring can cause your child's head to tilt to one side.

Klippel-Feil syndrome

Klippel-Feil syndrome is a problem that is present when a child is born (congenital). It happens when the bones in your child's neck do not form correctly, causing his neck to twist.

Children with Klippel-Feil syndrome may have other problems, such as trouble hearing, since the bones in their ears may not form correctly.

Eye conditions

Some children who have problems with their eye muscles tilt their heads in order to see straight.

Torticollis in Children

Both boys and girls get all types of torticollis. Muscular torticollis happens more often if babies are crowded while developing in their mother's womb.

Torticollis at Seattle Children's

Seattle Children's has a comprehensive team that can evaluate children with torticollis. The team includes staff from several divisions at Children's:

Our team sees about 100 new cases of torticollis each year.