By almost every measure, two and a half year old Dylan Wick is like any other boy his age. Almost. Born five weeks early, he had a small problem:
“The back of his head was flat and his head was tilted to one side. They don’t know if it’s due to the way he was laying in the womb or so forth,” says his mother Jessica Wick.
Called torticollis, it’s something most people have never heard of.
“Sometimes that child, because they tend to lay with their head to the right or the left side you not only have flattening to the right side but to the back side,” says Jami Hall, nurse practitioner with Golisano Children’s Hospital.
A nurse practitioner who specializes in neonatal follow up, Jami Hallman looks for misshapen heads and telltale tilts.
“Those children have distortion of facial features because the ear actually starts to align more on the one side then the other side. Then you start to have misalignment of the eyes. So it can be very, very significant or it can be very, very mild,” says Hallman.
Torticollis means ‘twisted neck’ in Latin. You may have experienced it you slept wrong. But it’s more intense in babies. It takes stretching and strengthening the muscles on the side of their neck to straighten the head tilt and fix the flat spots.
Wick’s case required physical therapy and homework.
“He was only 4 or 5 months when he started. They put him on a big, bouncy ball doing different exercises where you move him back and forth. You kind of put just a little bit of pressure on his head and stretch. So the physical therapist taught me the different methods to do at home,” says Wick.
It’s important to address torticollis before the window of opportunity closes.
“It needs to be taken care of before the soft spot on the head closes. Because once that happens, those bones have formed together and there’s really not much we can do,” says Hall.
After a few months, Wick was released from therapy and free to twist and turn, like any other kid.