Sternocleidomastoid imbalance versus congenital muscular torticollis: their relationship to positional plagiocephaly

Cleft Palate Craniofac J. 1999 May;36(3):256-61. doi: 10.1597/1545-1569_1999_036_0256_sivcmt_2.3.co_2.


Objective: The purpose of this study was to investigate the existence of sternocleidomastoid (SCM) imbalance in a plagiocephalic population and further clinically describe its difference, if any, from congenital muscular torticollis (CMT). If SCM imbalance is different from CMT, then the development of terminology and a differential diagnosis may allow early recognition and intervention and possible prevention of positional plagiocephaly in the first place.

Design: This was a retrospective, random review of 100 patients referred for orthotic correction of their positional plagiocephaly.

Setting: The data was collected in a private orthotic clinic and was directed by a physical therapist. The patients were seen on a weekly or biweekly basis.

Patients: Eighty-three patients diagnosed with positional plagiocephaly that were referred for Dynamic Orthotic Cranioplasty during 1996 were studied.

Results: Sixty-four percent of the sample was identified as having SCM imbalance and 12% was diagnosed with CMT. There were no statistically significant differences between the characteristics of these two groups in relation to the etiological factors of positional plagiocephaly. The only observed difference was related to symptoms of the neck itself.

Conclusions: Seventy-six percent of the sample was found to have some degree of SCM dysfunction, whether it be SCM imbalance or CMT. The finding that over three quarters of our population suffers from some form of SCM dysfunction, either SCM imbalance or CMT, suggests that any degree of SCM dysfunction may act as a precursor to positional plagiocephaly and therefore should be recognized and treated at the earliest opportunity.

MeSH terms

  • Cervical Vertebrae / physiopathology
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Craniosynostoses / etiology*
  • Craniosynostoses / prevention & control
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology
  • Muscular Diseases / complications
  • Muscular Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Neck / pathology
  • Neck Muscles / physiopathology*
  • Posture
  • Range of Motion, Articular / physiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Rotation
  • Torticollis / congenital*