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Congenital muscular torticollis: Management and prognosis

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


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]:

Postural – Infant has a postural preference but no muscle tightness or restriction to passive range of motion

Muscular – Tightness of the sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscle and limitation of passive range of motion

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Apr 13, 2017.
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