Torticollis - What is it and how can chiropractic help?


Torticollis is also known as wry neck. The latin definition of torticollis is “twisted neck” so, in other words, in torticollis the neck tends to twist to one side causing a head tilt. Along with the head tilt comes an inability to return the head to a resting position, a feeling of “pinched nerves”, an inability to breast feed in young children, and pain. If this condition is left unresolved in young children it can lead to malformation of the baby’s face and skull due to abnormal pressure distribution when the baby is laying on their back. 

Torticollis is most commonly known to happen in children (although it can happen in adults from medication or trauma), especially if their birth involved a lot of forceful twisting or pulling. If complications during the birthing process arise and the birth is particularly traumatic damage can occur to the sternocleidomastoid muscle (SCM), a muscle that connects the base of the skull (mastoid) to the shoulder bone (clavicle) and controls movement of the neck. This trauma usually causes the SCM to go into spasm causing a head tilt and trouble breastfeeding.  

Torticollis - SCM contraction, head tilt, head rotation

Torticollis - SCM contraction, head tilt, head rotation

In children, a common treatment of torticollis is surgery to cut the SCM at its origin near the clavicle. This treatment is invasive and has many long term side effects. At Foundation Chiropractic Co. we offer a less invasive approach. Our primary focus is ensuring that the bones of the neck (vertebrae) are in proper alignment, especially after a traumatic birth. This is important because the nerve that controls movement of the SCM originates from the base of the brain and travels down the neck. When the bones of the neck are misaligned it can put pressure on the nerve and cause spasm of the SCM, pain, and lack of motion. To ensure the bones of the neck are in the correct position our paediatric chiropractor will check the child’s spine and, if needed, perform a very gentle chiropractic adjustment. The force we use to adjust a newborn infant is the same force you would use to check the ripeness of a tomato. Aside from the adjustment, our chiropractors will gently stretch the SCM allowing relaxation, increasing the child’s range of motion and preventing facial and skull deformities.

For more information call 905-599-4804 to schedule a complementary consultation to discuss how we can help your child.