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Classification and external resources
The muscles involved with torticollis
eMedicineemerg/597 orthoped/452
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"Wry neck" redirects here. For the bird, see Wryneck.
Classification and external resources
The muscles involved with torticollis
eMedicineemerg/597 orthoped/452

Torticollis, also known as wry neck or loxia,[note 1] is a dystonic condition defined by an abnormal, asymmetrical head or neck position, which may be due to a variety of causes. The term torticollis is derived from the Latin words tortus for twisted and collum for neck.[1][2]


Torticollis is a fixed or dynamic tilt, rotation, or flexion of the head and/or neck. The type of torticollis can be described depending on the positions of head and neck.[3][1]

A combination of these movements often may be observed.


A multitude of conditions may lead to the development of torticollis including: muscular fibrosis, congenital spine abnormalities, or toxic or traumatic brain injury.[2] A rough categorization discerns between congenital torticollis and acquired torticollis.

Congenital muscular torticollis[edit]

The etiology of congenital muscular torticollis is unclear. Birth trauma or intrauterine malposition is considered to be the cause of damage to the sternocleidomastoid muscle in the neck.[2] This results in a shortening or excessive contraction of the sternocleidomastoid muscle, which curtails its range of motion in both rotation and lateral bending. The head typically is tilted in lateral bending toward the affected muscle and rotated toward the opposite side.

The reported incidence of congenital torticollis is 0.3-2.0%.[6] Sometimes a mass, such as a sternocleidomastoid tumor, is noted in the affected muscle at the age of two to four weeks. Gradually it disappears, usually by the age of eight months, but the muscle is left fibrotic.[2]

Initially, the condition is treated with physical therapies, such as stretching to release tightness, strengthening exercises to improve muscular balance, and handling to stimulate symmetry. A TOT Collar is sometimes applied. About 5–10% of cases fail to respond to stretching and require surgical release of the muscle.[7][8]

Acquired torticollis[edit]

Noncongenital muscular torticollis may result from scarring or 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).

Spasmodic torticollis[edit]

Main article: spasmodic torticollis

Torticollis with recurrent, but transient contraction of the muscles of the neck and especially of the sternocleidomastoid. Synonyms are "intermittent torticollis", "cervical dystonia" or "idiopathic cervical dystonia", depending on cause.

Acquired Torticollis in Infants[edit]

Infants often develop torticollis as a result of the amount of time they spend lying on their back during the day in car seats, swings, bouncers, strollers, and on play mats. Infants with torticollis have a higher risk of plagiocephaly or flat head syndrome. Most pediatricians recommend regular repositioning of a baby for healthy head and neck movement. Torticollis is almost always preventable in infants.


Correct positioning is important, and most pediatricians recommend parents reposition baby's head every 2–3 hours during waking hours. (At feeding time, diaper changes, while baby sleeps, etc.)

If torticollis is not corrected, facial asymmetry often develops.[10] Head position needs to be corrected before the approximate age of 18 months for improvement to occur. Younger children show the best results.

Common treatments[citation needed] might involve a multi-phase process:

  1. Neck and shoulder stability exercises
  2. Stretches
  3. Manipulation of the neck by an Doctor of Chiropractic, Occupational therapist, Physical therapist, Massage Therapist or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine
  4. Extended heat application
  5. Massage

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 optometrist or 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.).

Veterinary Medicine[edit]

A guinea pig with a head-tilt

In veterinary literature usually only the lateral bend of head and neck is termed torticollis, whereas the analogon to the rotatory torticollis in humans is called a head tilt. The most frequently encountered form of torticollis in domestic pets is the head tilt, but occasionally a lateral bend of the head and neck to one side is encountered.

Head tilt[edit]

Causes for a head tilt in domestic animals are either diseases of the central or peripher vestibular system or relieving posture due to neck pain. Known causes for head tilt in domestic animals include:


  1. ^ Not be confused with the genus Loxia covering those bird species known as "crossbills", which was assigned by Swiss naturalist Conrad Gesner because of the obvious similarities.


  1. ^ a b Dauer, W.; Burke, RE; Greene, P; Fahn, S (1998). "Current concepts on the clinical features, aetiology and management of idiopathic cervical dystonia". Brain 121 (4): 547–60. doi:10.1093/brain/121.4.547. PMID 9577384. 
  2. ^ a b c d Cooperman, Daniel R. (1997). "The Differential Diagnosis of Torticollis in Children". In Karmel-Ross, Karen. Physical & Occupational Therapy in Pediatrics 17 (2): 1–11. doi:10.1080/J006v17n02_01. ISBN 978-0-7890-0316-4. 
  3. ^ Velickovic, M; Benabou, R; Brin, MF (2001). "Cervical dystonia pathophysiology and treatment options". Drugs 61 (13): 1921–43. doi:10.2165/00003495-200161130-00004. PMID 11708764. 
  4. ^ Papapetropoulos, S; Tuchman, A; Sengun, C; Russell, A; Mitsi, G; Singer, C (2008). "Anterocollis: Clinical features and treatment options". Medical science monitor 14 (9): CR427–30. PMID 18758411. 
  5. ^ Papapetropoulos, Spiridon; Baez, Sheila; Zitser, Jennifer; Sengun, Cenk; Singer, Carlos (2008). "Retrocollis: Classification, Clinical Phenotype, Treatment Outcomes and Risk Factors". European Neurology 59 (1–2): 71–5. doi:10.1159/000109265. PMID 17917462. 
  6. ^ Cheng, JC; Wong, MW; Tang, SP; Chen, TM; Shum, SL; Wong, EM (2001). "Clinical determinants of the outcome of manual stretching in the treatment of congenital muscular torticollis in infants. A prospective study of eight hundred and twenty-one cases". The Journal of bone and joint surgery. American volume 83–A (5): 679–87. PMID 11379737. 
  7. ^ Tang, SF; Hsu, KH; Wong, AM; Hsu, CC; Chang, CH (2002). "Longitudinal followup study of ultrasonography in congenital muscular torticollis". Clinical orthopaedics and related research 403 (403): 179–85. doi:10.1097/00003086-200210000-00026. PMID 12360024. 
  8. ^ Hsu, Tsz-Ching; Wang, Chung-Li; Wong, May-Kuen; Hsu, Kuang-Hung; Tang, Fuk-Tan; Chen, Huan-Tang (1999). "Correlation of clinical and ultrasonographic features in congenital muscular torticollis". Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 80 (6): 637–41. doi:10.1016/S0003-9993(99)90165-X. PMID 10378488. 
  9. ^ Dressler, D.; Benecke, R. (2005). "Diagnosis and management of acute movement disorders". Journal of Neurology 252 (11): 1299–306. doi:10.1007/s00415-005-0006-x. PMID 16208529. 
  10. ^ Yu, Chung-Chih; Wong, Fen-Hwa; Lo, Lun-Jou; Chen, Yu-Ray (2004). "Craniofacial Deformity in Patients with Uncorrected Congenital Muscular Torticollis: An Assessment from Three-Dimensional Computed Tomography Imaging". Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery 113 (1): 24–33. doi:10.1097/01.PRS.0000096703.91122.69. PMID 14707619. 
  11. ^ Künzel, Frank; Joachim, Anja (2009). "Encephalitozoonosis in rabbits". Parasitology Research 106 (2): 299–309. doi:10.1007/s00436-009-1679-3. PMID 19921257. 
  12. ^ Jaggy, André; Oliver, John E.; Ferguson, Duncan C.; Mahaffey, E. A.; Glaus Jr, T. Glaus (1994). "Neurological Manifestations of Hypothyroidism: A Retrospective Study of 29 Dogs". Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine 8 (5): 328–36. doi:10.1111/j.1939-1676.1994.tb03245.x. PMID 7837108. 

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