St. Luke's Hospital
Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
Find a Physician Payment Options Locations & Directions
Follow us on: facebook twitter Mobile Email Page Email Page Print Page Print Page Increase Font Size Decrease Font Size Font Size
America's 50 Best Hospitals
Meet the Doctor
Spirit of Women
Community Health Needs Assessment
Home > Health Information

Multimedia Encyclopedia



    Wry neck; Loxia

    Torticollis is a twisted neck in which the head is tipped to one side, while the chin is turned to the other.


    Torticollis may be:

    • Inherited --due to changes in your genes
    • Acquired --develops as a result of damage to the nervous system, upper spine,or muscles

    If the condition occurs without a known cause, it is called idiopathic torticollis.

    Torticollis may develop in childhood or adulthood. Congenital torticollis (present at birth) may occur if the baby's head was in the wrong position while growing in the womb, or if the muscles or blood supply to the neck are injured.


    • Limited range of motion of the head
    • Headache
    • Head tremor
    • Neck pain
    • Shoulder that is higher on one side of the body
    • Stiffness of the neck muscles
    • Swelling of the neck muscles (possibly present at birth)

    Exams and Tests

    Tests or procedures may be done to rule out possible causes of head and neck pain. A physical examination will show:

    • Head tilts toward the affected side while the chin points to the opposite side
    • Shortening of the neck muscles
    • The entire head pulls and turns to one side (in more severe cases)

    Tests that may be done include:

    • CT scan of the neck
    • Electromyogram (EMG) to see which muscles are most affected
    • MRI of the brain


    Treatingtorticollis that is present at birthinvolves stretching the shortened neck muscle. Passive stretching and positioning are used in infants and small children.These treatments are often successful, especially if they are started within 3 months of birth.

    Surgery to correct the neck muscle may be done in the preschool years, if other treatment methods fail.

    Torticollis that is caused by damage to the nervous system, spine, or musclesis treated by identifying thecause of the disorder.

    • Applying heat, traction to the cervical spine, and massage may help relieve head and neck pain.
    • Stretching exercises and neck braces may help with muscle spasms.
    • Medications may be used, including the anticholinergic drug baclofen.
    • Injecting botulinum toxin can temporarily relievetorticollis, but repeat injections are usually neededevery 3 months.
    • Surgery of the spine might be needed when the torticollis is due to dislocated vertebrae. In some cases, surgery involves destroying some of the nerves in the neck muscles, or brain stimulation.

    Outlook (Prognosis)

    The condition may be easier to treat in infants and children. If torticollis becomes chronic, numbness and tingling may develop due to pressure on the nerve roots in the neck.

    The muscle itself may become large (hypertrophic) due to constant stimulation and exercise.

    Possible Complications

    Complications may include:

    • Muscle swelling due to constant tension
    • Nervous system symptoms due topressure onnerve roots

    When to Contact a Medical Professional

    Call for an appointment with your health care provider if symptoms do not improve with treatment, or if new symptoms develop.

    Torticollis that occurs after an injury or with illness may be serious. Seek immediate medical help if this occurs.


    While there is no known way to prevent this condition, early treatment may prevent it from getting worse.


    Spiegel DA, Hosalkar HS, Dormans JP, Drommond DS. The neck. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap. 679.

    Persing J. Prevention and management of positional skull deformities in infants. American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Practice and Ambulatory Medicine, Section on Plastic Surgery and Section on Neurological Surgery. Pediatrics. 2003;112:199-202.

    Patel M, Shah K. Orthopedics. In: Rakel RE, ed. Textbook of Family Medicine. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 42.


    • Torticollis (wry neck)


      • Torticollis (wry neck)


      Review Date: 5/21/2012

      Reviewed By: Luc Jasmin, MD, PhD, Department of Neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, and Department of Anatomy at UCSF, San Francisco, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

      The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

      A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Fire Fox and chrome browser.

      Back  |  Top
      About Us
      Contact Us
      Locations & Directions
      Quality Reports
      Annual Reports
      Honors & Awards
      Community Health Needs

      Brain & Spine
      Sleep Medicine
      Urgent Care
      Women's Services
      All Services
      Patients & Visitors
      Locations & Directions
      Find a Physician
      Tour St. Luke's
      Patient & Visitor Information
      Contact Us
      Payment Options
      Financial Assistance
      Send a Card
      Mammogram Appointments
      Health Tools
      My Personal Health
      Spirit of Women
      Health Information & Tools
      Clinical Trials
      Health Risk Assessments
      Employer Programs -
      Passport to Wellness

      Classes & Events
      Classes & Events
      Spirit of Women
      Donate & Volunteer
      Giving Opportunities
      Physicians & Employees
      For Physicians
      Remote Access
      Medical Residency Information
      Pharmacy Residency Information
      Physician CPOE Training
      St. Luke's Hospital - 232 South Woods Mill Road - Chesterfield, MO 63017 Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
      Copyright © St. Luke's Hospital Website Terms and Conditions  |  Privacy Policy  |  Patient Notice of Privacy Policies PDF Sitemap St. Luke's Mobile