Alternative Names : Wry neck; Loxia
Torticollis is a twisted neck in which the head is tipped to one side, while the chin is turned to the other.It is a stiff neck associated with muscle spasm, classically causing lateral flexion contracture of the cervical spine musculature. The muscles affected are principally those supplied by the spinal accessory nerve.
•Limited range of motion of the head
•Shoulder is higher on one side of the body
•Stiffness of neck muscles
•Swelling of the neck muscles (possibly present at birth)
Evaluation of a child with torticollis begins with history taking to determine circumstances surrounding birth and any possibility of trauma or associated symptoms. Physical examination reveals decreased rotation and bending to the side opposite from the affected muscle. Some say that congenital cases more often involve the right side, but there is not complete agreement about this in published studies. Evaluation should include a thorough neurologic examination, and the possibility of associated conditions such as developmental dysplasia of the hip and clubfoot should be examined. Radiographs of the cervical spine should be obtained to rule out obvious bony abnormality, and MRI should be considered if there is concern about structural problems or other conditions.
Evaluation by an ophthalmologist should be considered in children to ensure that the torticollis is not caused by vision problems (IV cranial nerve palsy, nystagmus-associated “null position,” etc.). Most cases in infants respond well to physical therapy. Other causes should be treated as noted above.
Causes & Treatment:
Torticollis can be congenital or may be acquired.
Congenital muscular torticollis:
The etiology of congenital muscular torticollis is unclear. Birth trauma or intrauterine malposition is also considered to cause damage to the sternocleidomastoid muscle in the neck. This results in a shortening or excessive contraction of the sternocleidomastoid muscle, often with limited range of motion in both rotation and lateral bending. The head is typically tilted in lateral bending toward the affected muscle and rotated toward the opposite side. The condition may be caused by scars, disease of cervical vertebrae, adenitis, tonsillitis, rheumatism, enlarged cervical glands, retropharyngeal abscess, or cerebellar tumors. It may be spasmodic (clonic) or permanent (tonic). The latter type may be due to Pott’s Disease (tuberculosis of the spine).
The reported incidence of congenital torticollis is 0.3-2.0 %. Sometimes a mass (a sternocleidomastoid tumor) in the affected muscle may be noted, this appears at the age of two to four weeks, it disappears gradually, but sometimes the muscle becomes fibrotic. It is likely to disappear within the first five to eight months of life.
The condition is treated initially with physical therapy, with stretching to correct the tightness, strengthening exercises to achieve muscular balance, handling to stimulate symmetry. A TOT Collar is sometimes used. About 5–10% require “surgical release” of the muscle if stretching fails.
Infants with torticollis have a higher risk for plagiocephaly. Altering the head position and using a pillow when supine helps as does giving a lot of tummy time when awake.
Other less common causes such as tumors, infections, ophthalmologic problems and other abnormalities should be ruled out. For example, ocular torticollis due to cranial nerve IV palsy should not be treated with physical therapy. In this situation, the torticollis is a neurological adaptation designed to maintain binocularity. Treatment should be targeted at the extraocular muscle imbalance.
In general, if torticollis is not corrected facial asymmetry can develop. Head position should be corrected before adulthood (to about the age of 18 there can be improvement). Younger children show the best results.
Congenital torticollis develops in the infant but can be diagnosed at older ages, even in adults who were missed as infants/children.
The word torticollis means wry neck: Acquired torticollis is not the same as congenital torticollis. All ages can suffer from acquired torticollis.
Common treatments might involve a multi-phase process:
1.Low-impact exercise to increase strong form neck stability
2.Manipulation of the neck by a chiropractor, physical therapist, or D.O.†
3.Extended heat application.
4.Repetitive shiatsu massage.
†An Osteopathic Physician (D.O.) may choose to use Cranial techniques to properly position the occipital condyles – thereby relieving compression of cranial nerve XI in children with Torticollis. This is an example of Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment.
Acquired torticollis occurs because of another problem and usually presents in previously normal children and adults.
*A self-limiting spontaneously occurring form of torticollis with one or more painful neck muscles is by far the most common (‘stiff neck’) and will pass spontaneously in 1–4 weeks. Usually the sternocleidomastoid muscle or the trapezius muscle is involved. Sometimes draughts, colds or unusual postures are implicated; however in many cases no clear cause is found. These episodes are rarely seen by doctors other than a family physician.
*Trauma to the neck can cause atlantoaxial rotatory subluxation, in which the two vertebrae closest to the skull slide with respect to each other, tearing stabilizing ligaments; this condition is treated with traction to reduce the subluxation, followed by bracing or casting until the ligamentous injury heals.
*Tumors of the skull base (posterior fossa tumors) can compress the nerve supply to the neck and cause torticollis, and these problems must be treated surgically.
*Infections in the posterior pharynx can irritate the nerves supplying the neck muscles and cause torticollis, and these infections may be treated with antibiotics if they are not too severe, but could require surgical debridement in intractable cases.
*Ear infections and surgical removal of the adenoids can cause an entity known as Grisel’s syndrome, a subluxation of the upper cervical joints, mostly the atlantoaxial joint, due to inflammatory laxity of the ligaments caused by an infection. This bridge must either be broken through manipulation of the neck, or surgically resected.
*The use of certain drugs, such as antipsychotics, can cause torticollis.
*Antiemetics – Neuroleptic Class – Phenothiazines
There are many other rare causes of torticollis.
Torticollis with recurrent but transient contraction of the muscles of the neck and esp. of the sternocleidomastoid. “intermittent torticollis . “cervical dystonia”
TREATMENT: Botulinum toxin has been used to inhibit the spastic contractions of the affected muscles.
The condition can also occur in animals, usually as a result of an inner ear infection but sometimes as a result of an injury. It is seen largely in domestic rodents and rabbits, but may also appear in dogs and other different animals.
Possible ComplicationsComplications may include:
•Muscle swelling due to constant tension
•Neurological symptoms due to compressed nerve roots
The condition may be easier to correct in infants and children. If the condition becomes chronic, numbness and tingling may develop as nerve roots become compressed in the neck.
The muscle itself may become large (hypertrophic) due to constant stimulation and exercise.
Botulinum toxin injections often provide substantial relief.
Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose
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