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A to Z: Torticollis

May also be called: Wryneck

Torticollis (tor-ti-CALL-is) is a twisting of the neck in which the head tilts to one side while the chin is pointed to the other side.

More to Know

The term torticollis comes from the Latin words “tortus” (twisted) and “collum” (neck). It’s a common condition in people of all ages. Some babies are born with a twisted neck due to their positioning in the womb or after a difficult childbirth. This is called infant torticollis or congenital muscular torticollis.

In kids and adults, torticollis can be caused by sleeping in a new or uncomfortable position, overloaded backpacks, or by colds, throat infections, injuries, or anything else that affects the muscles of the neck.

Torticollis causes the head to tilt toward the sore side to relieve stress on the neck. It can be uncomfortable and make it difficult to move the neck. In rare cases, neck pain can be a sign of a more serious condition or injury, so see a doctor if the pain is severe or lasts more than a couple of days.

Keep in Mind

Torticollis usually goes away on its own. After a day of rest, neck pain and head tilt should begin to ease but might not be completely gone for a few days. Pain and anti-inflammatory medicines and warm compresses can help ease any discomfort until the condition is gone.

Talk to your doctor if the torticollis does not improve, is associated with a fall or injury, or if it’s accompanied by other symptoms, such as fever.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.