As a parent, it can be difficult to detect symptoms in an infant who can't express how he or she is feeling. So it's important to know the signs and symptoms of certain conditions that can occur in infants.

As a parent, it can be difficult to detect symptoms in an infant who can't express how he or she is feeling. So it's important to know the signs and symptoms of certain conditions that can occur in infants.

Congenital Muscular Torticollis (CMT) is a condition that occurs in infants due to the tightening of their neck muscles. Because it is important that infants are treated as early as possible for CMT, it is equally as imperative for parents to understand CMT and the symptoms that come with it.

CMT is typically detected in a child during the first few months after birth. It usually results in a child holding his or her head consistently tilted or rotated to one side more than the other. Although the exact cause is unknown, prominent theories include muscle trauma during delivery, soft tissue compression and intrauterine crowding (cramped position in the uterus).

Studies show that infants who began physical therapy before they were 3 months old had shorter treatments and were more likely to have complete recoveries with conservative treatments. "It's important for parents and physicians to recognize the symptoms of CMT as early as possible, ideally within the first 3 months of life," said Catie Christensen, physical therapist at Nationwide Children's Hospital. "Studies have shown that the younger a child with CMT is referred to physical therapy, the quicker and more successfully it can be treated. If it is detected after 3 months of age, these infants may need to undergo additional therapy or require more aggressive medical intervention."

A group of physical therapists at Nationwide Children's Hospital have developed a new standardized treatment method for CMT based on different research studies. This method provides guidelines for therapists to evaluate and treat infants with CMT and provides them with a better understanding of expected outcomes.

"Research shows that having a greater loss of motion of the neck into rotation, having a bump in the neck muscle, or being referred to a physical therapist after 3 months of age can increase the treatment duration," continued Christensen. "At the time of the evaluation, the therapist will discuss the results with the parents and give them instructions on a home exercise program, including ways to carry and position the child, activities to strengthen and stretch the child's neck muscles and ideas for tummy time. It is important that parents follow through with the home exercise program on a daily basis for the best results."

Tummy time is important for all infants to help develop strength and cultivate gross and fine motor skills. It can be more difficult for children who have CMT due to the tightness in their neck muscles.

Thus, it is important that parents talk to their therapist or physician for ideas on how to position their child to increase the amount and duration of tummy time. Parents also must remember to always supervise babies when they are playing on their tummies and never place a child on his or her tummy to sleep.