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Congenital muscular torticollis: Clinical features and diagnosis

Charles G Macias, MD, MPH
Vanthaya Gan, MD
Section Editor
William Phillips, MD
Deputy Editor
Mary M Torchia, MD


Torticollis is the term for the clinical finding of a twisted or rotated neck. In Latin, the word "tortus" means "twisted" and "collum" means "neck." Torticollis, also called wryneck, is a common complaint in children and may be congenital or acquired.

The clinical features and diagnosis of congenital muscular torticollis will be reviewed here. The management and prognosis of congenital muscular torticollis, acquired torticollis in children, and neck stiffness in children are discussed separately. (See "Congenital muscular torticollis: Management and prognosis" and "Acquired torticollis in children" and "Approach to neck stiffness in children".)


Congenital torticollis – Congenital torticollis is a postural deformity of the neck that develops prenatally (though presentation to medical attention may be delayed); congenital torticollis has muscular and nonmuscular causes (table 1). (See 'Differential diagnosis' below.)

Congenital muscular torticollis – Congenital muscular torticollis is a postural deformity of the neck that is usually evident by two to four weeks of age; it is characterized by lateral neck flexion (head tilted to one side) and neck rotation (chin pointed to the opposite side) (picture 1).

There are three types, in order of increasing severity [1-3]:

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Jul 06, 2017.
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