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Torticollis : Our Favorite Tools + Techniques

Posted by Jesse Lillejord on
Torticollis is a commonly thought of condition when people hear about pediatric chiropractic care + rightfully so! This condition is closely related to spinal restrictions and muscle tightness [ OUR SPECIALTY ]. This blog dives into what torticollis is + our favorite techniques and tools! 
Torticollis : Our Favorite Tools + Techniques

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Torticollis is often due to a shortening and tightening of the sternocleidomastoid [SCM] and upper trapezius muscles [image below]. Common causes? Birth for one is physically demanding for everyone involved, but also upper respiratory infections. With URI’s often infants are tense, battling coughs, and breathing differently with their immature muscles. 

Signs of Torticollis in Infants:

— Head position preference +  Difficulty turning one direction : Chin rotates toward the opposite side the ear is leaning. 
— Troubles breast feeding - favoring one breast.
— Reaching or only using one arm
— Flat spots on the skull  or plagiocephaly
— Neck mass [ from contracted SCM ]
— Fussy + Irritable  
— Unresolved Torticollis : atypical crawling, asymmetrical trunk/shoulders, redness/irritation, difficulty weight bearing through arms. 

 Torticollis : Our Favorite Tools + Techniques

[Im updating this drawing!]

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Our Favorite Techniques + Tools

Stretching the SCM +  Upper Trap: 

The two main problem muscles of this condition are the SCM and upper trapezius as we mentioned before. These muscles can be stretched and lengthened to help increase mobility in your little one! 

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 Infant Chiropractic Adjustments 

Both contributing muscles of torticollis attach to the base of the skull. Often times there are restrictions between the skull and the first spinal segment that can be addressed using infant chiropractic adjustments. Birth is physically demanding on babe + so is growing and developing. Pediatric chiropractic care helps balance any spinal restrictions which in turn helps their developing nervous systems. 
What does newborn and infancy adjusting look like? Not much! It’s a very gentle pressure in the right place to relive and relax tension in their bodies. Adjusting an infant uses the pressure you would use to check a tomato for ripeness. 

 Torticollis our favorite tools and techniques

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Encourage Babe to the Other Side

Little ones with torticollis have tightness on one side of the neck ~ so their head had a preferred side. This head position and tight musculature can restrict trunk movements and you may notice that they are only reaching with one arm. 
— Sidelying play on the opposite side of preference. You can do this on the floor using your leg to support their back, or using your exercise ball. 
— Use toys to encourage looking, reaching, and rotating to their other side, Use toys, mirrors, light or other visual cues. Hold their upper shoulder on the opposite side so they don’t rotate through their trunk. 
—Baby wear + turn their head to the neglected side for an added stretch! Have them facing toward you!
—Inclined tummy time [more on this next]

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Tummy Time

We’ve said it before, but we will say it again. Tummy time is crucial for little ones development. During tummy time, their upper and lower spinal curve begin to form and their muscles gain strength to hold the head. If your little one is suffering from torticollis or any other type of side preference, tummy time can be difficult. Try tummy time using an exercise ball or any inclined surface. This will help improve lifting the head and maintain weight on their forearms. This allows babe to be slightly inclined [extra bonus - great for reflux]. Try using a mirror or toy to encourage looking away from their preferred side. Also try GUPPY POSE.

Torticollis : Our favorite tools + techniques

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Craniosacral Therapy: 

Craniosacral therapy (CST) is a gentle technique used to release soft tissue tightness + tension in the fascia surrounding the brain + spinal cord. The cranial bones overlap during the birth process to pass through the birth canal. CST helps guide these bones in the proper direction after birth ~ preparing it for the massive amount of neurological growth than occurs within the first year of life. 
Specifically with tension related conditions like torticollis, CST can be incredibly beneficial. Like chiropractic adjustments, CST helps babies unwind abnormal tensions in their muscles and connective tissues + release restrictions that are preventing the bones of the cranium from moving freely. 

Torticollis : our favorite tools and techniques

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Address Full Body Tightness:

We use a full-body approach when working with any sort of pediatric condition. Specifically with torticollis, it’s not uncommon to see tightness in other areas of the body like the upper trunk. Addressing tightness in the whole body is how we avoid future problems ~ like asymmetrical shoulders or atypical crawling. 

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~ As always don't hesitate to reach out with questions /// thoughts surrounding this topic! ~

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