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Torticollis occurs when muscles on one side of the neck contract (tighten). This causes the neck to twist or tilt to the side. The muscles may also be quite sore. It affects mainly children and young adults, often appearing overnight. It can also affect infants who develop tight neck muscles on one side.
Causes of torticollis include:
Congenital (present at birth)
Injury to the neck muscles from an accident or other trauma, or even just sleeping in a funny position
Side effect of certain medications or drugs
Problems with the bones of the neck (which can occur after an infection or injury)
Spasm of the muscles due to an infection, such as an abscess in the neck
All neck problems should be checked by a healthcare provider within 24 hours. Seek emergency care if you can't reach your doctor or these symptoms are present:
Trouble breathing or swallowing or in smaller children, continuous drooling
Numbness or weakness in the arms and legs
Trouble walking or speaking
The neck will be examined, and questions about any current or former medical problems will be asked. X-rays of the neck may be taken to check for broken bones.
The goal in treating torticollis is to relax the neck muscles. The best approach will depend on the cause of the problem. In most cases, one or more of the following may be given:
Medications to help relax the muscles and reduce swelling
Hot and cold compresses to help ease muscle tightness
Botulinum toxin (Botox) injections to prevent further muscle spasms
Physical therapy to help stretch and relax the muscles
Treatment of any infection, which may require intravenous antibiotics or surgery
Depending upon the cause, torticollis often goes away on its own. Follow up with your healthcare provider as instructed. If symptoms become worse, call your doctor or return to the ER.
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