Caring for a newborn infant is a full time job. In addition to worrying about feeding schedules, sleeping patterns and diaper changes you also want what’s best medically for your baby. Infants are susceptible to common physical non threatening medical diagnoses such as Torticollis and Plagiocephaly.
What is Torticollis and Plagiocephaly? Torticollis is tightening of a neck muscle in an infant resulting in excessive head rotation and/or tilting. When a newborn constantly favors looking in one position, the shape of the baby’s head starts to change causing flattening on one side. This is called Plagiocephaly. Flattening areas on an infant’s head can lead to facial changes and further treatment is needed.
Torticollis often occurs from an infant being positioned in the same place or direction resulting in excessive neck turning to the right or the left. Torticollis can occur both prenatal or postnatal. Multiple factors have contributed to the increased rate of Torticollis and further complications of Plagiocephaly, or flattening of one side of the head resulting in facial changes.
* American Academy of Pediatrics introduced the “Back to Sleep” Campaign in 1992 to reduce the rates of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). Although the push for infants to sleep on their backs has drastically decreased the number of SIDS related cases, this position in addition to laying on their backs throughout the day has significantly increased the rate of Plagiocephaly.
* Multiples – The increasing number of multibirths results in decreased space in utero for the babies to move and they often becomes positioned in one area. Constantly being positioned in one spot can lead to excessive neck rotation (Torticollis) and even head flattening (Plagiocephaly)
* Prematurity – Infants that are born premature are also at an increased risk of Torticollis and Plagiocephaly. This could be because of how they are positioned in the NICU as the doctors monitor the baby’s progress. Additionally, premature infants often times do not have the same strength as a full term baby therefore they can not tolerate being positioned on their stomach for long with poor ability to lift their head up.
* Infant carriers and containers – There are various options of swings, sleepers, bouncy seats and car seats for an infant to be placed in throughout the day. Research shows that infants are spending more time in such devices which has increased the amount of time they spend on the back of their head thus leading to head flattening and excessive neck rotation.
The good news is Torticollis is treatable and Plagiocephaly could be prevented!
* Tummy time – Increase the amount of time your infant spends on their stomach when they are awake and alert. You can position a newborn infant on your chest or even propped over a
small pillow and encourage them to lift their head. This will not only decrease the amount of time an infant spends on their back but also increase their neck strength which is important for future milestones such as crawling, sitting, walking and even throwing a ball.
* Physical Therapy – Physical therapy and neck stretches can help to decrease neck muscle tightness and excessive neck position favoring. At SportsCare Physical Therapy the physical therapist will provide you with an individualized plan to help treat your baby. One to one care will be provided as your baby is evaluated and treated. We will not only look at the amount of neck rotation and mobility your baby has but also their overall strength. We want to ensure that your baby develops at the age appropriate rate! The physical therapist will not only work on their head/neck alignment and shape but also their ability to roll, sit up, crawl, stand and walk. We encourage all family members who participate in the care of your baby to join in on a physical therapy session.
Contact SportsCare Physical Therapy in our Cedar Knolls I location at 218 Ridgedale Avenue, 973-359-0777 to schedule your individualized one to one care of your infant. The earlier detection of Torticollis and Plagiocephaly the better!