Skip to main content

Understanding Pediatric Torticollis

Understanding Pediatric Torticollis: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment


Pediatric torticollis is a condition that affects infants and young children, causing a tilt or rotation of the head. It can be concerning for parents, but with proper understanding and timely intervention, it can be effectively managed. In this blog post, we will delve into the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for pediatric torticollis, highlighting the role of physical therapy in the rehabilitation process.


Pediatric torticollis can arise from various factors, including:

  1. Congenital muscular torticollis: The most common form, typically resulting from tight or shortened neck muscles (sternocleidomastoid).
  2. Positional plagiocephaly: Occurs when a baby consistently favors one side while lying down, leading to flattening of the head and subsequent neck muscle imbalances.
  3. Infection or inflammation: Rarely, torticollis can be caused by infections, such as mastoiditis or retropharyngeal abscess, or inflammation of the neck muscles.


Parents and caregivers should look out for the following signs of pediatric torticollis:

  1. Head tilt: The infant’s head tilts to one side, often accompanied by limited neck range of motion.
  2. Limited movement: Difficulty turning the head fully to one or both sides, leading to a preference for facing one direction.
  3. Muscular asymmetry: Uneven muscle development on the affected side, noticeable when comparing the neck, face, or shoulders.
  4. Facial/head asymmetry: The baby’s face or head may appear flatter on one side due to consistent pressure on that side of the head.


Early intervention is crucial in managing pediatric torticollis effectively. Physical therapy plays a significant role in the treatment process. Here are the key components of physical therapy for pediatric torticollis:

  1. Stretching exercises: A physical therapist will guide parents in performing gentle stretching exercises to lengthen the tight neck muscles and increase the range of motion.
  2. Strengthening exercises: Specific exercises aim to strengthen the weakened or underdeveloped muscles on the affected side of the neck and upper body.
  3. Tummy time: Encouraging supervised tummy time helps promote motor development and prevent positional plagiocephaly.
  4. Parent education: Physical therapists educate parents on proper handling, positioning, and environmental modifications to encourage balanced movement and reduce the likelihood of reoccurrence.
  5. Orthotic devices: In some cases, a physical therapist may recommend a cranial orthosis or helmet to correct head shape abnormalities associated with positional plagiocephaly.


Pediatric torticollis is a condition that can be effectively managed with early intervention and physical therapy. By addressing the underlying causes and promoting appropriate muscle development, physical therapists play a vital role in improving the child’s neck mobility and overall motor development. If you suspect your child may have torticollis, consult with a pediatrician or physical therapist to get a proper evaluation and start the necessary treatment promptly. Remember, with the right care and support, most children with pediatric torticollis can achieve full recovery.

Jessica Jones

Physical Therapist

Jessica recently moved to Seattle from Boston, MA and is excited to join the Therapydia team. Her treatment experience includes orthopedics, sports medicine, pediatrics, and vestibular therapy. Jessica received her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Northeastern University in Boston, MA in 2016. She has completed the Pediatric Physical Therapy Residency at Boston Children’s Hospital and is in the process of completing a Comprehensive Vestibular Rehabilitation certification. Jessica believes in empowering and inspiring patients to take control of their health through education, movement, and exercise. She enjoys treating patients of all ages and levels while utilizing soft tissue techniques, neuromuscular re-education, balance training as well as therapeutic exercise. In her free time, Jessica enjoys yoga, dancing, kayaking, and hiking with her dog!


Move Better with Physical Therapy

Same-day or next-day appointments are available for new patients.

"*" indicates required fields

Are you an existing patient or new patient?*

Appointment Preferences

Day of the week
What days are you free to come in?
Time of Day
What times work best for you?
Select which option applies