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Torticollis Birth Injury Lawsuits

NewbornInfant torticollis, also known as congenital muscular torticollis (CMT), is a condition in which a baby’s neck muscles are tight or shortened, causing the baby’s head to tilt to one side and turn to the opposite side.

It typically appears shortly after birth and may be due to various factors, including the baby’s positioning in the womb or the position they were placed in during delivery. While infant torticollis is not always caused by medical malpractice, medical negligence may be a factor in some situations.


Torticollis, also known as “wry neck” or “twisted neck,” is a disability or condition you are probably familiar with. Anyone can experience it temporarily, such as when a stormy night’s sleep strains your neck.

In these cases, it usually disappears very quickly. However, torticollis can also arise in infants as a congenital condition (from birth). While this is usually not a severe condition either, it is still imperative that your child receives a proper diagnosis and treatment right away. If recognized and treated early, the condition usually disappears in less than a year with no long-term effects.

Unfortunately, there have been cases where medical neglect has caused such otherwise harmless cases of infant torticollis to become much more severe problems. In these cases, doctors may either neglect to diagnose or recommend proper treatment for a child when they are still very young, and it is easiest to treat – sometimes even repeatedly refusing to do so despite the insistence of the child’s parents. Because such negligence can lead to infant torticollis becoming a much more severe condition, parents seeking legal redress for medical malpractice in such instances can attain significant monetary compensation with effective legal representation.

In addition, there have also been instances where incorrect procedures used during your baby’s delivery process can result in the acquisition of torticollis. In such cases, you may also be able to successfully use legal representation to pursue compensation for the hospital’s or physician’s negligence, which was responsible for causing the torticollis.

If you believe your child’s infant torticollis has worsened or developed due to medical neglect, contact our law firm or another birth injury law firm.

What is Torticollis in Infants?

Infant torticollis is twisting a baby’s neck caused by a tight neck muscle. This muscle – the sternocleidomastoid – runs down both sides of the neck from behind the ears to the collarbone, and its function is to turn and tilt the neck. If this muscle is strained, these kinds of actions may be difficult for your child to do, and you will most likely notice this by the appearance of their neck and/or the way they move and rest their head daily.

How Do Infants get Torticollis?

The possible causes of infant torticollis are numerous, but they are almost all linked to the baby’s delivery circumstances or their womb development. Some of these possible causes during pregnancy include:

  • The position of the baby’s head
  • A developmental problem with the neck muscle
  • Spine misalignment
  • Cramping creates additional pressure

Some of the possible causes during delivery include:

  • Damage to the neck muscle
  • Breech deliveries (when a baby is born bottom first instead of head first)
  • The use of forceps or vacuum devices
  • Improper or forceful pulling

Is Torticollis Hereditary?

Torticollis, whether acquired or congenital, is only rarely hereditary. The only case might be if it is caused by some underlying hereditary issue, such as hereditary muscle aplasia or other conditions harming the nervous system or muscles.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Infant Torticollis?

If you suspect your child may have developed torticollis, you have probably noticed some of these signs already. These are the main ones to look for:

  • Turning or tilting head more to one side than the other
  • Difficulty turning head in general
  • Difficulty breastfeeding on one side or only breastfeeding on one side
  • Small neck bump or “knot” in tight neck muscle
  • Prefers looking at you over their shoulder instead of turning to follow with their eyes
  • One shoulder higher up on the body
  • An awkward chin position

In addition to these signs, some of the symptoms which can arise from the condition include:

  • Headaches and head tremors
  • Neck pain, muscle stiffness, and swelling
  • Flat head on one or both sides or the back of the head (positional plagiocephaly)

How Is Infant Torticollis Diagnosed?

A simple examination conducted by a pediatrician is usually enough to diagnose infant torticollis, as its physical signs and symptoms are relatively distinct and easy to detect. You must have your baby tested as soon as you believe there may be an issue, as the condition is significantly easier to treat if detected earlier.

However, your child’s pediatrician may also want to perform additional tests such as an x-ray, ultrasound, or MRI to rule out other issues (such as hip dysplasia), determine whether there is a more serious underlying issue, or provide additional confirmation of their diagnosis.

If you believe your baby has torticollis, it is strongly recommended that you visit a doctor to confirm the diagnosis, conduct additional tests if needed, and ensure the proper treatment for your child.

What Is the Recommended Treatment for Infant Torticollis?

When you visit the pediatrician for your baby’s diagnosis, they should provide you with clear instructions. Depending on the severity of your child’s condition, they might suggest a dedicated physical therapist – whom you could visit regularly or have come to your residence.

Some of the torticollis baby exercises include:

  • Increasing tummy time (uses neck muscles to reduce tightness) for 30 minutes three times a day
  • Stretching techniques – You can learn these from a pediatric physical therapist and should do them several times a day
  • In strollers, seats, and swings, posture should be controlled using blankets or a U-shaped neck pillow to hold the neck in a neutral position
  • Reducing time spent in a single position – any time off their back is good!
  • Place your baby in their crib so that they need to turn their chin the non-preferred way to see the room
  • Place toys or other objects in such a way that your baby has to turn their head to see or play with them

In more severe cases, your child’s pediatrician may recommend medication as part of the treatment, and in the most extreme cases, muscle-release surgery could also be needed.

Does Torticollis Cause Developmental Delays

Torticollis itself does not directly cause developmental delays. But untreated or poorly managed torticollis can lead to some secondary issues that may affect a child’s development. These issues are typically related to limited head movement and can include:

  1. Delayed Motor Skills: Torticollis can limit an infant’s ability to turn their head freely.  In the short term, this is rarely a problem. But long term it can affect their ability to explore their environment and engage in activities that promote motor development, such as rolling over, reaching for objects, or lifting their head during tummy time while might lead to the child not hitting those milestones on time.
  2. Flat Head Syndrome (Plagiocephaly): Prolonged torticollis can result in positional plagiocephaly, where one side of the baby’s head becomes flat due to the constant pressure on that side. This condition can sometimes require treatment, such as physical therapy or the use of specialized helmets, to correct.  This should not really cause developmental delays but anytime a child has to deal with something outside of the usual growing process it can temporarily slow down development
  3. Delayed Milestones: A baby with torticollis might take longer to achieve developmental milestones, such as crawling or sitting up, due to limited neck mobility.

Can You Get Disability for Torticollis?

People with adult torticollis may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits if their condition hinders their ability to participate in “substantial gainful activity.” We are birth injury lawyers, not disability attorneys. But this question is decided on a case-by-case basis. Our lawyers put this question in because it is asked so frequently.

How Long Does Infant Torticollis Last?

Infant torticollis usually goes away when your child is one year old. However, its duration can vary – your baby’s neck could take up to six months to heal, a year, or even longer. If it takes more than a year to heal despite consistent, ongoing treatment, there may be another underlying cause. If the condition is not improving with time, you must revisit and consult your child’s pediatrician.


Infant torticollis, also known as congenital muscular torticollis (CMT), is a condition in which a baby’s neck muscles are tight or shortened, causing the baby’s head to tilt to one side and turn to the opposite side. It typically appears shortly after birth and may be due to a variety of factors, including the baby’s positioning in the womb or the position they were placed in during delivery. While infant torticollis is not always caused by medical malpractice, there are situations where medical negligence may be a factor.

Medical malpractice claims related to infant torticollis are incredibly rare. Has our law firm ever had a pure torticollis case?  No.  And we do not know of any lawyer who has.

But they can arise in cases where healthcare providers fail to diagnose or properly manage the condition, leading to complications or long-term issues for the child. Here are some scenarios where you might see a medical malpractice lawsuit:

  1. Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis: If a healthcare provider fails to recognize infant torticollis in a timely manner, it can lead to delayed treatment and potential complications. Early intervention, such as physical therapy or stretching exercises, can be effective in managing the condition. Failure to diagnose or delaying diagnosis can result in a malpractice claim.
  2. Failure to Provide Adequate Treatment: Once diagnosed, infant torticollis often requires physical therapy, stretching exercises, and sometimes other interventions. If a healthcare provider fails to provide appropriate treatment or recommends an incorrect course of action, it may be considered medical malpractice.
  3. Inadequate Informed Consent: If parents were not properly informed about the risks and potential complications associated with a recommended medical procedure or treatment for infant torticollis, they may have grounds for a malpractice claim if their child experiences harm as a result.
  4. Birth Trauma: In some cases, infant torticollis can result from birth trauma, such as the improper use of forceps or vacuum extraction during delivery. In these cases, the core of the malpractice lawsuit is usually focused on the other birth injuries that traveled with torticollis from the negligence (often oxygen deprivation in labor and delivery).
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