What is Congenital Muscular Torticollis (CMT)?

Congenital Muscular Torticollis (CMT) or Wry Neck is a condition in which newborns or infants’ neck muscle is shortened causing the neck to twist. Congenital means present from birth and torticollis means twisted neck.

Symptoms of Congenital Muscular Torticollis

Each infant may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Tilting of the infant’s head to one side
  • Infant’s chin turns toward the opposite side of the head
  • Firm and small mass in the middle of sternocleidomastoid muscle

In most cases, CMT is successfully managed conservatively with physiotherapy which includes gentle range of motion, stretching exercises, strengthening exercises and a positioning and handling program.

Parents and caregivers are advised to work closely with the physiotherapists to learn those activities and exercises to perform at home between physical therapy sessions.

Below are the 5 simple tips for the parents and caregiver can perform at home to prevent CMT and to maximize the benefits of physical therapy:

1. Encourage your baby to turn his/her head to look to both sides.

Infants love to look at faces. Toy placement influences the direction your baby looks. Place toys on both sides of your baby and use toys with sounds and lights to attract your baby to actively turn the head from side to side.  Alternate the arm that you hold the baby with during each feeding.

2. Place your baby on his/her back to sleep.

When you place your baby on the back to sleep, alternate the side to which the head turns each night to prevent a flat spot from developing on one side. You can alternate which is the head of the crib each night to encourage the baby to turn the head to each side to see out of the crib.

3. Tummy to Play

Infants should spend time on their tummies when they are awake to help with motor development and to prevent flat spots from developing on their heads. It is important that your baby is awake and supervised during tummy time.

Tummy time helps babies strengthen the muscles around the neck, arms and shoulders that are necessary for head control, to roll, sit and crawl. Try positioning your baby across your lap to help your baby tolerate tummy time more easily.

4. Engage your baby in play activities that promote midline orientation by repositioning your baby’s head and body to midline. 

Center your baby’s head and body when in the car seat, stroller, or on your lap facing you. Babies play by bringing their hands together or to their mouths or by bringing their feet up to their hands. When babies play like this they are practicing coming to midline. Encourage your baby to reach for toys, rattles and their legs equally with either hand.


5. Minimize time baby spends in containers.

Baby positioners such as car seats, swings, and bouncers can constrict an infant’s movements and cause prolonged pressure on the back of the baby’s head.

Limit the time in positioning equipment to only the time your baby is being transported. Hold your baby in your arms or use a carrier. It is important to give the baby opportunities to move and play freely in a playpen or on a blanket on the floor with adult supervision.


You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment or changing any ongoing treatment.


Article by Gan Yee Jie

Physiotherapist from Your Physio

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