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Torticollis & Plagiocephaly Program

The Torticollis & Plagiocephaly Program at Mary Free Bed treats children of any age, even as young as newborn, who are experiencing torticollis and/or plagiocephaly symptoms. Once treatment begins, we’ll work to improve your child’s neck motion, symmetrical use of arms and legs, bilateral hand-eye coordination, and strength of trunk muscles to allow age appropriate motor skills to develop.

► Read more expert information about torticollis and plagiocephaly.


Torticollis is a shortening or tightening of the muscle that goes from behind the ear to the front of the neck (called the sternocleidomastoid muscle), and helps your baby turn her head and bring her ear down to her shoulder.

Torticollis can be caused by a number of things, including:

  • Sleep position
  • Restrictive intrauterine positioning (common with large or multiple babies)
  • Congenital muscular torticollis
  • Maternal anatomical conditions
  • Birth trauma
  • Orthopedic conditions
  • Muscle weakness


Plagiocephaly is an asymmetrical head shape, most often a flattening of the back of the head on one side. If plagiocephaly is diagnosed, the Mary Free Bed therapy staff works with Mary Free Bed Orthotics for evaluation and for helmet fitting to reshape your baby’s head.

Torticollis and plagiocephaly don't always occur together, although they often do. Mary Free Bed's program addresses either, or both, diagnoses.

What You Can Do if Your Baby Has Torticollis and/or Plagiocephaly

First, make sure your baby receives a clinical evaluation to clarify the diagnosis. If positional plagiocephaly or congenital torticollis is confirmed, you can best help by repositioning your baby in the opposite direction he prefers to look during play and sleep. Also, have your baby spend time on his stomach during his waking hours and do therapy-directed stretching to loosen tight muscles. Repositioning your baby’s head during sleep also helps redistribute the pressure on his skull.

If Torticollis Isn't Treated

Left untreated, the long-term effects of torticollis can include gross motor difficulties, vision problems, facial asymmetry, ear asymmetry, and asymmetric jaw development in moderate or severe cases.

Torticollis & Plagiocephaly Services

Physical Therapy Assessment
Your physical therapist talks with you about your child’s medical history and current torticollis and plagiocephaly symptoms and evaluates:

  • Range of motion of neck, trunk, upper extremity, and lower extremity
  • Control of shoulder girdle
  • Structure and appearance of face and neck
  • Gross motor skills

Occupational Therapy Assessment
An occupational therapist evaluates:

  • Range of motion of neck, trunk, and upper extremity
  • Control of shoulder girdle
  • Structure and appearance of face and neck
  • Fine motor skills
  • Visual perceptual development  

Coordination with Orthotics
We coordinate our efforts with other programs available at Mary Free Bed. Many of our patients are referred to Orthotics for evaluation and helmet fittings (for reshaping) or neck collars (for retraining), as needed.

► View Mary Free Bed's Orthotics & Prosthetics website for more information

Torticollis and Plagiocephaly Therapy
Your child is monitored for developmental milestones to ensure that healthy patterns for movement are maintained. Physical and occupational therapists work with your child on:

  • Stretching exercises
  • Increasing gross motor function with emphasis on symmetry of movement between the right and left sides of the body
  • Neck and trunk righting
  • Increasing proximal stability for shoulder girdle control
  • Increasing range of motion in the neck
  • Increasing awareness of neglected side
  • Manual techniques to relax tight muscles

Family and Caregiver Torticollis and Plagiocephaly Education
Family involvement is a key component of our program. Our rehab experts educate you on positioning, stretching, and play activities that support therapy goals. You'll receive training and support to ensure that your child’s treatment continues at home, at child care, and in other settings.

Contact the Torticollis & Plagiocephaly Program

For more information about torticollis and/or plagiocephaly or to make a referral, contact Mary Free Bed's Torticollis & Plagiocephaly Program.

616.242.0366 or 800.668.6001



Outpatient Referral Form

Here's what patients are saying

"It was obvious the PT's and OT's had worked with kids. My daughter took to the OT right away."

"My therapists were confident, organized, and professional — but most importantly, they were nice!"

Torticollis & Plagiocephaly Patient Stories

Baby Sayla needed a helmet for the flat spot on her head. Read Sayla's story...

After an extended stay in the neonatal unit, Jasper preferred to have his head turned in one direction and developed a flat spot on his head. Read Jasper's story...

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