February 15, 2016

Chicago Physical Therapy: Torticollis and Plagiocephaly

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]In our interview with one of Step by Step’s therapists in Chicago, Amanda Wizinsky explained her work with children with torticollis and plagiocephaly. Amanda uses tummy time to strengthen the neck and head muscles. She uses a variety of physical therapy stretches and exercises for children with torticollis and plagiocephaly.

What is Torticollis?

Torticollis is defined as the infant’s head being tilted to one side. Tight muscles or lumps in the neck cause the head to pull down to one side and the chin is angled toward the other side. Torticollis is usually painless in infants but creates a limited range of motion. The straining of neck muscles will cause children to incorrectly learn gross motor skills and can affect their physical abilities, such as rolling and crawling.

What is Plagiocephaly?

Plagiocephaly is commonly known as flat head syndrome.  The name speaks for itself: part of the head is flattened from persistently lying on that side of the head. Plagiocephaly may occur if your child’s head lies in the same position due to torticollis. Therefore, if your child has torticollis and no treatment is applied, plagiocephaly may occur.

Causes of Torticollis and Plagiocephaly:

Both torticollis and plagiocephaly are caused either in-utero or by their environment. It can be caused by lack of room in the uterus, traumatic birth, multiple births, or low amniotic fluid. Research also shows that more infants are diagnosed with torticollis and plagiocephaly since the “Back to Sleep” program began, which was intended for decreasing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The exponential diagnoses are due to lack of tummy time. Infants are spending too much time on their back and in car seats, bouncers, and carriers. Since an infant’s skull is comprised mostly of cartilage, continuously lying on the same section of their head may impair the ossification process, which occurs when the cartilage becomes bone.

Chicago Physical Therapy and Treatment:

As Amanda mentioned in her interview, the best exercise for torticollis and plagiocephaly is tummy time. Chicago physical therapy for infants is designed to educate the family and caregivers on appropriate stretches and exercises to apply daily. At first, the physical therapists in Chicago will frequently visit the family to explain and model appropriate stretches, massages, and exercises. Once the family and caregivers feel confident, they should be doing the exercises multiple times a day. Therapists recommend limiting time in strollers, bouncers, car seats, and other equipment. Physical therapists will model proper positioning when in equipment or being held to promote complete range of motion in the neck. If your child is constantly leaning or looking to one side, try putting their toys on the other side to encourage movement on the opposite side. For plagiocephaly, physical therapy is a good treatment plan but a helmet might be needed to re-shape their head to a more normal position before ossification.


“Congenital Torticollis and Plagiocephaly Therapy.” Congenital Torticollis and Plagiocephaly Therapy. Antelope Valley Hospital, n.d. Web. 01 July 2015

Guo, Tamara. “Torticollis and Plagiocephaly: Prevention and Help for Your Baby.” Day 2 Day Parenting. N.p., 07 Nov. 2013. Web. 01 July 2015.            [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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