Infant Torticollis: Ruby’s Journey

I’ve wanted to post about Ruby’s torticollis for a long time, but have been a bit nervous to write it down for fear it wouldn’t get better, and because there hasn’t been a clear resolution. We’d wondered if she would need to wear a helmet or even have surgery down the track, so I haven’t wanted to really vocalise it until I know myself what is going to happen. That said, Ruby has progressed so much lately that we can finally see improvement and a light at the end of the tunnel – she is now holding her head up and freely looking left and right, and both J and I excitedly come out of her room at night to tell the other she is sleeping facing the left side!

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So, what exactly am I talking about when I say “torticollis”? Well, many of you with babies will know that they often prefer to lay with their head on one side or the other, which can lead to what is known as “flat head syndrome”. Heike had this same preference and still has a slightly uneven head despite lots of physio. In the weeks after Ruby’s birth, it was obvious she turned her head to the right almost always, however the difference with her was that it was very difficult for us to physically turn her head back to the left. There was also some resistance from her spine; it, too, curved slightly to the right. This is what is known as torticollis, a muscular condition that causes deformation to the neck or head. It’s something you will notice in adults too, particularly the disabled or elderly, but is common in some infants who have had birth trauma or abnormal positioning in the womb.

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The paediatrician picked up on this at the 6 week check and referred us to an Osteopath rather than a physio purely due to our location, but I believe this was so lucky for us. The Osteopath we saw (and see) was so expert in this field, and so caring and kind, and I’ve since heard of many parents who have seen physio’s for the same issue only to end up seeing an Osteo once the issue has not resolved. We went to The Round Clinic in Wong Chuk Hang and can not recommend the practitioners there highly enough.

Basically we were told that Ruby’s neck muscles had developed differently due to her breech position in the womb. Her head had been trapped under my ribs tilted to the right, causing a shortening of the neck muscles on one side. Her issue was more on the severe side, so initially we had to see the Osteo twice per week (at great cost, however it has been worth it).

After every appointment Ruby would seem happier and have some more freedom in her movement, however it really did take a long time for us to see proper progress. Due to the constant positioning of her head she does have some obvious misshapen parts on her skull – one side of her forehead juts out a little more and she has more rounding on the left side of the skull, which of course makes the right side more comfortable. Added to this, she has been an incredibly placid baby, thus prone to lying contentedly on the side we don’t want her to be on, and not overly susceptible to lots of stimulation on the other side. We would find she would briefly turn to us and whatever toys we were dangling, smile, and roll back to the other side to stare at the wall!

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The only thing that has really helped is persistence and time. I can’t thank her osteopath enough for all her advice and care, but it has also really come down to Ruby getting stronger and more alert and “playing” more. Another factor that helped was changing her formula and making a concerted effort to bump up her weight, which seems to have helped with her strength (she has been tragically long and skinny!).

Today, at 5.5 months, Ruby is doing really well. She is a lot more alert and hence more willing to play with her head on either side, and her strength has come leaps and bounds. Finally, she can lift her head up during tummy time and turn it both ways – she can even roll over here and there! This is amazing given that a few months ago we were constantly worried about whether she would improve.

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Her head still isn’t completely round but luckily she is a girl and will always have plenty of hair to cover it, so I figure. Other than that she is a happy, smiley, quiet little baby who we are finally getting to enjoy without too much worry.

I must say, everything about having a third child is a learning curve for me, even though she is such an easy baby. What would I do without her?

 

 

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