Baby physio tips for torticollis and plagiocephaly
Everybody, meet the absolutely gorgeous gentleman that is Arthur!
Arthur was having difficulty looking to the left side just 3 weeks ago.. now he's smiling away and looking over his left shoulder after a little bit of baby physio!
Just to give you little background, baby Arthur was just 10 weeks old when I met him and mum and dad had noticed some flattening on the back of his head and a preference to looking to the right side. Arthurs head had been slightly compressed on the left side whilst in-utero, due to this positioning he was born with a little facial moulding on the left side. This had improved in the first few weeks but his parents had also noticed that he preferred to look to the right and his head was tilted to the left. They had also started to notice a flattening on the back of his head, on the right side. Arthur was struggling to gain head control because of these issues and when lying on his tummy he couldn't very easily hold his head up.
These two things Torticollis (shortening of the sternoclidomastoid muscle) or one side of the neck and flattening of the back of the head Plagiocephaly are very common in newborns. Plagiocephaly is also more common than it used to be due to babies sleeping on their backs (to prevent SIDS - sudden infant death syndrome) .
So how can physio help? With early intervention physio can be very effective at helping babies stretch out these tight muscles, gain more head control and to teach parents how to hold, position and minimise pressure on the back of the babies heads. So over a couple of sessions with Arthur, we have been practicing, side lying to the left side - to passively stretch the left side of his neck, some simple stretches, gentle baby massage to the tight muscles and working on head control as well as general positioning advice. Bingo, in a couple of weeks Arthur now loves looking to the left and his head tilt has much improved. Arthur parents were also advised to place his toys on the left side of his pram/ cot and talk to him from the left side , always encouraging him to spend time looking to the left. Black and white patterns and toys can also be helpful as the babies like these two contrasting colours when they are little.
One of the most important bits of advice though is Tummy Time.. so placing a rolled up towel or small baby bolster cushion under the shoulders and encouraging baby to be on their tummies and bringing hands to the floor. This will help develop head control and trunk strength as well as allowing your baby to be able to freely look to both sides. You also want to minimise time in baby rockers, car seats etc.. to lessen time spent with pressure on the back of their heads.
I also really like the Mimo pillows which are shaped to prevent plagiocephaly and help pressure be redistribued in the baby's head to help re-shapen any flat areas. You can place this under their heads when they are sleeping or any time they are having any pressure on the backs of their heads.
There are some simple stretches to help stretch out the sternocleidomastoid muscles. In this case we wanted to stretch Arthurs' left side so I stabilised the left shoulder and side stretch away from the tight side. I don't hold for too long as general the babies find this uncomfortable, but they will help lengthen the muscles, so little and often. You can also stretch out the side of the neck by assisting the baby to look to the side they don't like when they are lying on their back, again stabilising their shoulders so the rotation come from the neck, rather than the shoulders. A good way to remember to do the stretches is at nappy changing time. You can also help position your baby when they are feeding so that they are positioned to the side they need to look to.
This is just a snap shot of some of the simple ways to help your baby with Plagiocephaly and torticollis but for advice regarding stretches and positioning please do consult a registered childrens physiotherapist or qualified health professional.
If you'd like further information regarding Torticollis and Plagiocephaly and how baby or childrens' physiotherapy can help, please do get in contact by calling us on 07877256784 or sending a message via my contact page here
Thanks again to Arthur and his lovely mummy and daddy X