Torticollis is not a common condition – thank goodness — but it is a painful and difficult one and can affect some infants and children, either because they have been born with it or because they have suffered injury or damage to the spinal cord of brain.

What is Torticollis?

Torticollis — also called wry neck, loxia or cervical dystonia — is a painful condition where neck muscles contract and shorten and turn the head into a certain direction, making the head tilt forward or backwards or to the left or right.  This can happen at any age and can affect infants and children as well as adults.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of this Condition?

The symptoms of torticollis will not be the same for everyone, but there are some that are common to many people who have this condition. These include:

  • Swelling/stiffness of the neck muscles
  • Shoulder pain or one shoulder being lower than the other
  • Limited ability to turn the head
  • Headaches and pain in the neck or shoulders

It is easy to see how serious and painful this can be for someone who is suffering from this condition.

What Causes this Condition?

There are actually three different kinds of torticollis — and they are caused by three different things:

  • Inherited. This happens when a baby is born with this condition and it is usually caused by changes in genes that happen when the baby is still developing.
  • Acquired. This happens when the nerves in the neck or spine are damaged by trauma or injury or triggered by the use of certain medications, such as those who help to tamp down on nausea and upset stomach.
  • Idiopathic. This is a medical term that doctors use when they do not fully understand just what the cause of the problem is.

Who is at Risk?

There are several risk factors that make it more likely that someone will develop torticollis.  These include:

  • Age. This can affect infants if it is inherited, but when it comes to adults, the most likely age is between 40 and 70.
  • Gender. Women are more likely than men to develop this condition.
  • Family history. If a close relative such as a parent or sibling has had this problem, this also raises the risk.

What Kind of Complications can Torticollis Cause?

The pain, stiffness and awkward positioning of the head that this condition can bring can be disabling and interfere with someone’s ability to live their lives normally if it is not treated. This can lead to depression and other emotional problems. It can also lead to other physical problems such as problems with the muscles in the face or the shoulders.