"Wry neck" redirects here. For the bird, see Wryneck.

The muscles involved with torticollis
Classification and external resources
Specialty Orthopedics
ICD-10 M43.6
ICD-9-CM 723.5
DiseasesDB 31866
MedlinePlus 000749
eMedicine emerg/597 orthoped/452
Patient UK Torticollis
MeSH D014103

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]


The underlying anatomical distortion causing torticollis is a shortened sternocleidomastoid muscle. This is the muscle of the neck that originates at the sternum and clavicle and inserts on the mastoid process of the temporal bone on the same side.[3] There are two sternocleidomastoid muscles in the human body and when they both contract, the neck is flexed. The main blood supply for these muscles come from the occipital artery, superior thyroid artery, transverse scapular artery and transverse cervical artery.[3] The main innervation to these muscles is from cranial nerve XI (the accessory nerve) but the second, third and fourth cranial nerves are also involved.[3] Pathologies in these blood and nerve supplies can lead to torticollis.

Signs and symptoms

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 the head and neck.[1][4]

A combination of these movements may often be observed. Torticollis can be a disorder in itself as well as a symptom in other conditions.

Other symptoms include:[7]

Categories [3]


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

The cause 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] Other alterations to the muscle tissue arise from repetitive microtrauma within the womb or a sudden change in the calcium concentration in the body which causes a prolonged period of muscle contraction.[8]

Any of these mechanisms can result 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. In other words, in the direction towards the shortened muscle with the chin tilted in the opposite direction.[3]

Congenital Torticollis is presented at 1–4 weeks of age and a hard mass usually develops. It is normally diagnosed using ultrasonography and a colour histogram or clinically through evaluating the infant's passive cervical range of motion.[9]

Congenital torticollis constitutes the majority of cases seen in clinical practice.[3] The reported incidence of congenital torticollis is 0.3-2.0%.[10] 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]

Acquired torticollis

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

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.


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. Early initiation of treatment is very important for full recovery and to decrease chance of relapse.[3]

Physical therapy

Recent research suggests that physical therapy is a viable option for treating torticollis in a non-invasive and cost-effective manner. It has been shown that while outpatient infant physiotherapy is effective, home therapy performed by a parent or guardian is just as effective (if not more) in reversing the effects of congenital torticollis.[8] Lateral neck flexion and overall range of motion can be regained quicker in newborns when parents conduct physical therapy exercises several times a day.[8]

Physical therapists should teach parents and guardians to perform the following exercises:[8]

Microcurrent therapy

A Korean study has recently introduced an additional treatment called microcurrent therapy that may be effective in treating congenital torticollis. For this therapy to be effective the children should be under three months of age and have torticollis involving the entire sternocleidomastoid muscle with a palpable mass and a muscle thickness over 10 mm. Microcurrent therapy sends minute electrical signals into tissue to restore the normal frequencies in cells.[12] Microcurrent therapy is completely painless and children can only feel the probe from the machine on their skin.[12]

Microcurrent therapy is thought to increase ATP and protein synthesis as well as enhance blood flow, reduce muscle spasms and decrease pain along with inflammation.[12] It should be used in addition to regular stretching exercises and ultrasound diathermy. Ultrasound diathermy generates heat deep within body tissues to help with contractures, pain and muscle spasms as well as decrease inflammation. This combination of treatments shows remarkable outcomes in the duration of time children are kept in rehabilitation programs: Micocurrent therapy can cut the length of a rehabilitation program almost in half with a full recovery seen after 2.6 months.[12]

About 510% of cases fail to respond to stretching and require surgical release of the muscle.[13][14]


Surgical release involves the two heads of the sternocleidomastoid muscle being dissected free. This surgery can be minimally invasive and done laparoscopically. Usually surgery is performed on those who are over 12 months old. The surgery is for those who do not respond to physical therapy or botulinum toxin injection or have a very fibrotic sternocleidomastoid muscle.[7] After surgery the child will be required to wear a soft neck collar. There will be an intense physiotherapy program for 3–4 months as well as strengthening exercises for the neck muscles.[15]

Other treatments include:[8]


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.

Ultrasonography is another diagnostic tool that has high frequency sound waves used to visualize the muscle tissue. A colour histogram can also be used to determine cross sectional area and thickness of the muscle.[12]

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.).

Differential diagnosis for torticollis involves[3]


Studies and evidence from clinical practice show that 85–90% of cases of congenital torticollis are resolved with conservative treatment. It is possible that torticollis will resolve spontaneously but chance of relapse is possible.[3]

Other animals

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

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. 1 2 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. 1 2 3 4 Cooperman, Daniel R. (1997). Karmel-Ross, Karen, ed. "The Differential Diagnosis of Torticollis in Children". Physical & Occupational Therapy in Pediatrics. 17 (2): 1–11. doi:10.1080/J006v17n02_01. ISBN 978-0-7890-0316-4.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Tomczak, K (2013). "Torticollis". Journal of Child Neurology.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 1 2 Saxena, Amulya (2015). "Pediatric torticollis surgery treatment & management". Medscape.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 Carenzio, G (2015). "Early rehabilitation treatment in newborns with congenital muscular torticollis". Phys Rehabil Med.
  9. Boricean, ID (2011). "Understanding ocular torticollis in children". Pubmed.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 1 2 3 4 5 Kwon, D.R. (2014). "Efficacy of micro current therapy in infants with congenital muscular torticollis involving the entire sternocleidomastoid muscle". Clinical Rehabillitation.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. Seung, Seo (2015). "Change of facial asymmetry in patients". Medscape.
  16. Künzel, Frank; Joachim, Anja (2009). "Encephalitozoonosis in rabbits". Parasitology Research. 106 (2): 299–309. doi:10.1007/s00436-009-1679-3. PMID 19921257.
  17. 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.

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Torticollis.
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/4/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.