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HealthInfo Canterbury

Twisted neck in babies (torticollis)

Torticollis (or wry neck) is when a baby's neck is bent or twisted to one side. A child with torticollis may:

Torticollis is usually caused by a tight or short muscle at the side of the neck. It first appears when the baby is 2 or 3 weeks old. Torticollis may be caused by the baby's position in the womb. There are also other conditions that can cause torticollis, or there may be no obvious cause.

Plagiocephaly (flat head in babies) is often associated with torticollis. This is because the neck rotated to one side for a long time may cause a flat area on that part of the head. Plagiocephaly and torticollis can also happen independently.

If your baby has torticollis, follow the recommendations below. If it continues, talk to your doctor about seeing a physiotherapist.

Treating and preventing torticollis

These activities can treat torticollis as well as prevent it.

Do them several times a day so they become part of your normal daily routine. Almost all torticollis due to muscle tightness will get better with these activities before your baby turns 1.


Side lying and carrying


Tummy time


If you have any questions or concerns, contact your GP or Plunket nurse.

If you have tried the above advice for a month and your baby's neck isn't getting any better, or if you are worried, contact your GP.

Written by Child Development Service, Montreal House, Canterbury DHB. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by clinical director, Paediatric Surgery, Canterbury DHB. Last reviewed June 2019.

Images courtesy of Baby girl rests in cradle by Danilo Rizzuti. Newborn baby sleeping by Tuomas_Lehtinen.

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Review key: HITNB-241920