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Exciting New Research About Physical Therapy for Infants

Posted by Brian Spence on Nov 30, 2018 8:00:00 AM

Physical Therapy, Allied HealthThe October issue of Pediatric Physical Therapy includes exciting recommendations for infants with congenital muscular torticollis (CMT). CMT is a deformity in which an infant's head is tilted to one side and turned to the other side. You might have heard this postural deformity by its more common names of "twisted neck" or "wryneck."

This deformity is caused by a shortened sternocleidomastoid muscle which runs from the collar bone to behind the ear. The research presented in the journal finds early intervention for infants with CMT results in great outcomes! In fact, the evidence shows that the earlier physical therapy is begun, the less need there will be for surgery and the less time it will take for the infant to achieve normal neck motion.

The Details about Physical Therapy for Infants with CMT

Previous guidelines for physical therapy for infants with CMT were in place since 2013. The new 2018 guidelines are updated with 17 action statements, which are supported by research evidence.

  • For instance, the new guidelines state that all expectant parents and parents of newborns should be educated on CMT. This includes teaching them about the importance of tummy time during the infant's awake periods. Tummy time helps prevent the deformed postural preferences and helps strengthen neck muscles.

  • All healthcare professionals caring for newborns and infants should screen the infants for CMT from birth through six months. If CMT is noticed, then the infant should be promptly referred to a doctor or physical therapist who has experience with infants.

  • A new classification system which rates how severe the CMT condition is has been included in the 2018 guidelines.

  • The goal of physical therapy for infants with CMT is to improve the range of motion in the neck, to improve neck strength, and to improve the alignment of the neck's posture. When physical therapy has been initiated before three to four months of age, then 92 to 100 percent of the infants achieved full passive neck rotation. Also, zero to one percent of the infants required surgery.

The new guidelines are intended to be a reference document, and it was written to hopefully improve the outcomes for infants with CMT. 

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