Congenital muscular torticollis: current concepts and review of treatment

Curr Opin Pediatr. 2006 Feb;18(1):26-9. doi: 10.1097/01.mop.0000192520.48411.fa.


Purpose of review: The purpose of this review is to better understand the spectrum of disease in torticollis, which is the third most common pediatric orthopaedic diagnosis in childhood. Besides the benign muscular tightness of the sternocleidomastoid muscle leading to the classic head position, the differential diagnosis of the wry neck include sequelae to inflammatory, ocular, neurologic or orthopedic diseases. Patients present with a stiff and tilted neck, and therefore require a thorough and systematic work-up, including a complete physical and neurologic examination and cervical spine radiographs.

Recent findings: Recent findings show that magnetic resonance imaging of the brain and neck is no longer considered cost-effective, or necessary, in congenital muscular torticollis. Observation and physical therapy, with or without bracing, is usually an effective treatment in most cases, especially if instituted within the first year of life. Botox has recently been shown to be an effective intermediate method of treatment for more resistant cases of congenital muscular torticollis. In those presenting after the age of 1 year, there is an increased rate of sternocleidomastoid muscle lengthening. The lengthening may improve the range of motion, but not necessarily the plagiocephaly, facial asymmetry, or cranial molding.

Summary: It is important to differentiate muscular from nonmuscular torticollis. Congenital muscular torticollis is benign; missing a case of nonmuscular torticollis could be potentially life threatening.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Botulinum Toxins, Type A / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Neuromuscular Agents / therapeutic use
  • Physical Therapy Modalities
  • Torticollis* / congenital
  • Torticollis* / diagnosis
  • Torticollis* / therapy


  • Neuromuscular Agents
  • Botulinum Toxins, Type A