If you notice that your baby likes to only look one way or that they tilt their head to one side the majority of the time, they may have torticollis. All the pediatric physical therapists at Highbar love treating this condition and are ready to help your child improve their mobility and range of motion. Keep reading to learn the exercises that a pediatric physical therapist will suggest for children with torticollis.
What is Torticollis?
While there can be a few causes to torticollis, the most common is congenital muscular torticollis (CMT). This is caused by a shortening of one of the muscles in the neck that leads to this slightly tilted and twisted posture. Physical therapy is the primary treatment for torticollis as pediatric physical therapists are trained to facilitate stretching and strengthening to improve the symmetry of your child's muscular system. We are also able to assist in differentially diagnosing the torticollis if it is coming from another area, like your child's vision or their sensitive stomach.
If your child is less than six months old…
Why is sidelying one of our favorite positions? It's beneficial for your little one for so many reasons. They have to balance core recruitment in this position and can start to lift their head up against gravity. This is good for neck strengthening and rolling readiness.
We love talking about the importance of tummy time because it's so important! Propping your child on their elbows or over a small pillow can really give them an advantage in lifting their head up and gaining strength in their neck.
Holding your child on their side in your arms helps to develop muscles on the side of the neck and their core muscles! This active stretch works double-time to strengthen and lengthen the muscles around the neck.
Cervical Range of Motion
You can encourage your little one to turn their head in any position - sitting, on their back, or on their belly! Use a toy or your face to guide them as they engage with you out of curiosity to see where you're going. This exercise helps to promote a full range of motion of the head and neck.
This critical milestone is so important for coordinating both the upper body and lower body. As your child passes through side-lying, they utilize what is called a "righting reaction" to lift their head against gravity during the rolling motion. Rolling also encourages core recruitment and gives vestibular input to desensitize your little one to motion.
If your child is more than six months old…
This Z-shaped sitting position can look funny, but it provides a large stretch to the side of the body and a good crunch of the core on the opposite side. This position is a great transition to go from sitting to tummy time, or to grab a toy far away and return to sitting.
This is usually a child's first exploration of independent mobility. This is when a child spins around on their belly! To encourage your child to pivot, entice them with a toy in a circular fashion around their body. Similar to side sitting, this encourages simultaneous core strengthening and lengthening.
Sitting on Unstable Surfaces
Allowing your child to sit on less stable surfaces like an exercise ball or the edge of the couch with your supervision is a great way to test their core strength and encourage good balance reactions for walking readiness.
Playing in a half kneeling position, where one knee is on the ground and the other foot is on the ground allows your child to begin to engaging their butt muscles for steadiness in standing. Make sure to alternate which side is in front so they can get good symmetrical recruitment after all that stretching and muscle lengthening! This is also a great position to use to help your little one transition from the floor to standing.
We love cruising because it allows your child to explore sideways walking for good buttock recruitment and pelvic range of motion. This helps to encourage symmetrical weight bearing, going side to side to help with reducing any muscle imbalances before your little one starts walking.
Have you used any of these exercises before? Let us know! Do you think your little one would benefit from some physical therapy? Contact us to schedule an appointment. We look forward to helping your child reach their fullest movement potential.