What is Torticollis?

Torticollis, also known as wry neck, is an issue involving muscles of the neck that cause the head to tilt down to one side while the chin tilts to the other side. Torticollis neck can be present at birth or acquired later with a possibility of being the result from damage to the neck muscles or blood supply. It may come quickly or slowly and can be either benign or a sign of a more serious health issue.

While torticollis will sometimes go away without a treatment, there is a chance of relapse. When symptoms of a twisted, or wry, neck suddenly appear, this is called acute torticollis. Acute torticollis can be resolved within two weeks, but still be severe leaving the person unable to keep their neck straight.

Now that we know what is torticollis, there are other types of torticollis too; such as temporary torticollis (usually disappearing after one or two days), fixed torticollis, muscular torticollis, klippel-feil syndrome, cervical dystonia and benign paroxysmal torticollis (BPT).

Temporary torticollis can be due to swollen lymph nodes, a cold, ear infection or injury to your head and/or neck that causes swelling.

Fixed Torticollis is due to a problem with the muscular structure or the bone structure and also referred to as acute torticollis or permanent torticollis.

Muscular torticollis is the most common type of fixed torticollis. This type results from scarring or tight muscles on one side of the neck.

Klippel-feil syndrome is a much rarer type of torticollis neck that is seen in babies. When bones in the baby’s neck are not formed correctly (usually because of two neck vertebrae fused together), they develop this rare syndrome. Those who are born with this condition could have a difficulty hearing or difficulties in vision.

Cervical dystonia is rare as well and is sometimes referred to as spasmodic torticollis. In cervical dystonia, the neck muscles contract in spasms and your head will twist and turn painfully to one side with a possibility of it tilting forward or backward.

This can happen to anyone, with a common occurrence in those between the ages of 40 to 60 years old and affects women more so than men. This type of torticollis neck has a chance of going away without any kind of treatment; however, there is a risk of it coming back.

Benign paroxysmal torticollis, or BPT, is a rare paroxysmal dyskinesia (an episodic movement disorder) in which the sufferer has recurrent episodes of torticollic posturing of the head – where the head tilts to one side. These episodes can last as little as 10 minutes and up to two months, although uncommon.

Benign paroxysmal torticollis can also occur without any other associated symptoms, but can be accompanied by pallor, vomiting, irritability or ataxia. These episodes will become less frequent as the child grows older and become less intense usually by the age of 2 to 3, but always by the age of 5.

This type of torticollis neck has been suggested to be a variant of a migraine and older children might have headaches during an episode with many children developing typical migraines after they outgrow paroxysmal torticollis.

Torticollis Symptoms in Adults and Causes

The most common torticollis symptoms in adults are an inability to move your head normally, neck pain or stiffness, headache, having one shoulder higher than the other, a tilting of your chin to one side or swollen neck muscles.

For adults, torticollis causes include injuries to the cervical spine or neck muscles that lead to muscle spasms and twisting of the neck/head and infections of the head or neck. Tumors, scar tissue, arthritis of the cervical spine and vascular abnormalities may cause torticollis as well, although rare.

Torticollis Symptoms in Infants and Causes

Torticollis symptoms in infants include head tremors, neck pain, one shoulder being higher than the other, neck muscle swelling, neck muscle stiffness, headaches, a constant leaning of their head in only one direction and an awkward chin position.

Torticollis causes in infants contain vacuum extraction injury, forceps injury, improper/forceful pulling by the physician during delivery, abnormal birth presentation (for example, breech position) and spine misalignment while they are in the uterus.

It can also be acquired, due to tonsillitis, tumors, accidents, Grisel’s syndrome or too much time lying down or sitting in car seats, strollers and bouncers.

If left untreated, torticollis neck will likely become permanent. As some types of torticollis are temporary, how long torticollis lasts will depend on the cause. If it is from birth, it should be looked at to be corrected right away. As you get older and your neck position starts to change and become uncomfortable or painful, it does not hurt to get it looked at as soon as you can to stop it from getting worse.

As said before, it could go away without any type of treatment but there is always a chance for relapse. If the cause of torticollis neck is treated right away, you could avoid relapse altogether if you continue to take care of your neck.

How Long Torticollis Lasts

If left untreated, torticollis neck will likely become permanent. As some types of torticollis are temporary, how long torticollis lasts will depend on the cause. If it is from birth, it should be looked at to be corrected right away. As you get older and your neck position starts to change and become uncomfortable or painful, it does not hurt to get it looked at as soon as you can to stop it from getting worse. As said before, it could go away without any type of treatment but there is always a chance for relapse. If the cause of torticollis neck is treated right away, you could avoid relapse altogether if you continue to take care of your neck.

Chiropractic Torticollis Therapy

Torticollis is in the neck, affected by injuries or improper/abnormal placement of the cervical area (neck area). A chiropractic torticollis therapy for the cervical area is a highly recommended option that is safe and requires no surgery or medications. Chiropractors specialize in finding misalignments in the body and correcting them so your body can continue to function properly and heal itself by getting rid of the underlying cause.

This treatment is safe for adults as it is for babies. When adjustments are made, the pressure is released off of the nerves, relieving you of pain and further damage. Adjustments will also help your neck become properly aligned, which is important to neck health in battling against torticollis as it will help you keep a proper neck posture and relax your muscles.

Regular chiropractic treatments will help you avoid conditions like torticollis and will prevent these conditions from doing permanent damage. In chiropractic torticollis therapy, torticollis neck is usually resolved in a matter of weeks. During this time of healing, patients can start seeing improvements in their daily activities almost immediately.