What is it?

“Congenital muscular torticollis” (CMT) describes a condition whereby the stenocleidomastoid (SCM) muscle, located in the neck, becomes tight.

Who gets it?

CMT is condition experienced by infants (around 3 – 20 for every 1000 babies) and is often noticed soon after birth. The cause is not known.

How does it present?

A baby with CMT usually keeps their head tilted and will often turn their head to one particular side. Flattening of the head (referred to as plagiocephaly) may become apparent on one side due to repeatedly resting the head in the same position. In the first 4 weeks following birth, a firm lump may be seen or felt in the neck, although this usually disappears with 6 months.

How is it treated?

The preferred method of treatment is physiotherapy. Parents may be taught to perform gentle stretches to the baby’s neck several times a day. The physiotherapist may also provide advice relating to carry and play positions which can assist in correcting the condition. It is advisable for physiotherapy to begin before the baby reaches 3 months.

What happens if the condition persists after treatment?

In the event that the condition does not respond to physiotherapy, surgical lengthening of the tight muscle may be necessary. Surgery is usually performed after the baby is 1 year old.