How To Treat Torticollis: 5 Simple Steps

Torticollis, commonly known as “wry neck,” is a condition characterized by a tilted and twisted neck. It can be congenital or acquired due to various reasons like poor posture, injury, or certain health conditions. Understanding how to treat torticollis effectively is crucial for alleviating pain and restoring normal neck movement.

Here are 5 simple steps to manage and treat torticollis, incorporating short-tail and long-tail keywords related to “Treat Torticollis.”

Understanding Torticollis

Before diving into treatment methods, it’s essential to understand what torticollis is and why it occurs. Torticollis can affect individuals of all ages, leading to discomfort and limited mobility.

Symptoms often include a tilted head, neck pain, stiffness, and sometimes headache. Identifying the underlying cause of torticollis is a key step in choosing the right treatment approach.

What is Torticollis?

Torticollis, also known as wry neck, is a medical condition characterized by an abnormal, asymmetrical head or neck position. In this condition, the head typically tilts to one side, while the chin points towards the opposite side. This unnatural positioning can be due to various underlying factors and may occur in individuals of any age, from infants to adults.

Symptoms of Torticollis

The symptoms of torticollis can vary in intensity from mild discomfort to severe pain and limited range of motion. Common symptoms include:

  • Neck Pain and Stiffness: The most noticeable symptoms are a tilted head and neck pain, which can range from mild to severe. The stiffness often worsens with movement.
  • Headache: The strain and stress on neck muscles can often lead to tension headaches.
  • Limited Neck Mobility: Individuals may find it difficult to turn their head side to side or tilt it up and down.
  • Shoulder Height Difference: One shoulder may appear higher than the other due to the tilt of the neck.
  • Muscle Swelling: In some cases, the affected side of the neck may show swelling or a noticeable lump due to the contracted muscle.

Causes of Torticollis

Torticollis can be categorized into two types: congenital (present at birth) and acquired. The causes vary based on the type:

  • Congenital Torticollis: This is often due to positioning in the womb or a birthing injury that results in damage to the neck muscles, specifically the sternocleidomastoid muscle.
  • Acquired Torticollis: This form can develop due to several reasons, including:
    • Muscular or skeletal problems, such as poor posture, injury, or repetitive strain on the neck muscles.
    • Infections that lead to inflammation of the lymph nodes or neck tissues.
    • Neurological disorders that affect the muscles or nerves of the neck.
    • Side effects of certain medications can cause muscle contractions leading to torticollis.
  • Idiopathic Torticollis: In some cases, the exact cause remains unknown, termed idiopathic torticollis.

Diagnosing Torticollis

A diagnosis of torticollis involves a physical examination and a review of medical history. Healthcare professionals may also recommend imaging tests, such as X-rays or MRI, to assess the extent of the condition and rule out other potential causes. Understanding the specific cause of torticollis is crucial for determining the most effective treatment plan.

Step 1: Consultation with a Healthcare Professional

The first and most crucial step in treating torticollis is to consult with a healthcare professional. A physical therapist, chiropractor, or physician can provide a comprehensive diagnosis and recommend an appropriate treatment plan tailored to your condition’s severity and cause.

Step 2: Physical Therapy

Physical therapy stands as a pivotal element in the comprehensive treatment of torticollis. By focusing on specialized exercises and techniques, physical therapists aim to alleviate the symptoms and address the root cause of this condition. Here’s how physical therapy can make a significant difference:

Tailored Exercise Programs

A core component of physical therapy for torticollis is the development of a customized exercise program. This program typically includes:

  • Stretching Exercises: To gently stretch the neck muscles, reducing stiffness and increasing flexibility. For example, tilting the head towards the opposite side of the tilt and gently applying pressure can help stretch the affected muscles.
  • Strengthening Exercises: To strengthen the muscles around the neck and improve overall stability. Isometric exercises, where the muscle contracts without moving the joint, are particularly beneficial.

Manual Therapy Techniques

Physical therapists often use hands-on techniques to help reduce pain and improve movement. These may include:

  • Massage: To relieve muscle tension and promote relaxation. Gentle massage of the sternocleidomastoid muscle can reduce tightness and discomfort.
  • Mobilization: Using slow, measured movements to mobilize the joints and muscles in the neck, increasing range of motion.

Pain Management

Physical therapy also offers strategies for managing pain, such as:

  • Heat or Cold Therapy: Applying heat can relax muscles, while cold therapy can reduce inflammation and pain.
  • TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation): A therapy that uses low-voltage electrical current for pain relief.

Education on Posture and Ergonomics

Improving posture and optimizing the work and living environment are essential to prevent the recurrence of torticollis. Physical therapists provide valuable guidance on:

  • Correcting Posture: Educating patients on maintaining proper neck alignment during daily activities.
  • Ergonomic Adjustments: Recommendations on workspace setup to minimize strain on the neck, such as adjusting computer monitor height and seating arrangements.

Consistency Is Key

The success of physical therapy in treating torticollis heavily relies on consistency and adherence to the prescribed exercise and treatment regimen. Regular sessions with a physical therapist, coupled with a commitment to performing exercises at home, are crucial for achieving the best possible outcomes.

Step 3: Use of Orthotic Devices

For certain cases of torticollis, especially in infants and young children, the use of orthotic devices like a cervical collar may be recommended. These devices can help in maintaining proper neck alignment and facilitating correction of the condition.

Step 4: Home Remedies and Lifestyle Adjustments

Incorporating home remedies and making lifestyle adjustments can complement medical treatments for torticollis. Simple steps such as applying heat or cold packs, practicing good posture, and modifying your workspace ergonomics can significantly aid in recovery.

Step 5: Surgical Intervention (In Severe Cases)

While most cases of torticollis can be managed non-surgically, severe cases may require surgical intervention. This is typically considered when conservative treatments have not provided relief, and there is a significant impact on the individual’s quality of life.


Treating torticollis involves a multifaceted approach that includes professional healthcare advice, physical therapy, possible use of orthotic devices, home remedies, lifestyle adjustments, and in severe cases, surgery.

By following these five simple steps, individuals suffering from torticollis can work towards alleviating their symptoms and improving their neck function. Remember, early intervention and adherence to your treatment plan are key to a successful recovery from torticollis.