You are looking at some of your recent pictures and notice how your head is tilted in every picture. What if there is more to the head tilt than meets the eye?!! What is a head tilt? What does having a head tilt mean? Can a head tilt be corrected? These are all great questions that I will answer in this blog along with the negative effects that come along with a head tilt including neck pain, jaw pain, jaw grinding, and headaches!
What is a head tilt?
Head tilt, from a Postural Neurology perspective, is more than just a head that is tilted to one side vs the other but to better understand head tilt, let’s do a quick review of the gross anatomy of the brain:
There are 3 main parts of the brain (see in the photo):
- Brain Stem
The portion of the brain that is involved in a head tilt (when combined with a history of headache or jaw pain) is called the Mesencephalon or midbrain. The midbrain is part of the brain stem and is involved in the following:
- Controlling the process of vision (regulating responses to sight)
- Pupil dilation
- Eye movement
- Regulates movements of muscles
In the case of head tilt, there is an over-activation of the mesencephalon leading to an imbalance of all or some of its functions listed above.
What causes a head tilt?
When your eyes are exposed to too much light from the lighting in the office, computer screen light, or even too much sunlight, the midbrain becomes hyper-active which presents as a head tilt which over time will be accompanied by headaches, jaw pain, teeth grinding and neck pain. Watch the video below to learn more:
What is the treatment for Head Tilt?
If you have a head tilt, the first thing you want to do is prevent further damage from light exposure. Since you can’t turn off the lights at work and have no choice but to be staring at a computer monitor all day, that brings us to pinhole glasses.
Pinhole glasses are just regular plastic glasses with a film over the lenses that have a bunch of pinholes in them. These work to filter out some of the light that your eyes absorb. For patients that get headaches from too much light exposure, I advise them to wear the glasses right when they feel like they are about to get a headache. Wearing these glasses, similar to the concept of blue light glasses, is simply to minimize overstimulation of the midbrain any further.
With that being said, it’s important to understand that pinhole glasses will prevent further damage but not correct the musculoskeletal issue that has resulted. Once the brain contribution to the issue has been addressed you can’t just expect the head tilt to be corrected, especially if this has been going on for quite some time.
There are many additional adverse effects of a head tilt on your heath and include the following:
- Muscular imbalance of the neck
- Impaired breathing pattern
- Overall Imbalance (heavy head)
- Development of pathological movement patterns
I know what you’re thinking, all of that from a head tilt?? Where most treatments of cases like this fail is the failure to see past the area of complaint. Yes, some direct soft tissue work may be necessary, like Active Release Technique in the neck musculature or temporomandibular joint (TMJ), but just because the head tilt only causes neck pain or jaw pain does not mean the rest of the body is not impacted! In the video below, you will understand the role postural neurology makes in assessing and treating issues that seem to be chronic or injuries that become recurring.
Now let’s look into the correlation between head tilt and neck pain. One of the basic principles about our brain is that it needs to be as parallel to the ground as possible. With head tilt, this is heavily challenged and the immediate area of stress is the neck. You may address the neck pain, but since not every neck pain has the same source it is easy to get in a never-ending circle of treatments and specialties only to still have the neck pain. If movement was a concert, our body parts would be the musicians. Going after one musician (the neck) and expecting the concert to be improved is a waste of time.
Over time, the lack of a proper functioning neck leads to the dysfunction in the neck working with the rest of the body. In the ‘concert’ example, it is the musician not knowing when to chime in and phase out with the other “musicians” that perpetuates the problem. A never-ending circle of issues that many are familiar with. Head tilt, jaw pain, teeth grinding and headaches all are within the circle of dysfunctional movement and negatively impacted neurology behind the postural presentation.
Once the area of the brain and its associated ‘malfunction’ is determined through the appropriate Postural Neurology exam, then Developmental Kinesiology or Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization– the principles of movement we, human beings are programmed to use, we can resume proper functional movement.
In the video above you can see that the exercise was not just about the head or neck. Everything plays a role:
- Breathing (correct engagement of abdominal muscles)
- Shoulder joint positioning
- Arm muscle engagement
- Leg positioning
This is the very beginning of movement development and correction being in a 3-month developmental position. You may think this really doesn’t apply to you, it’s just neck pain, but in everything you do from sitting to walking from your car to the house requires movement and if you’re not moving functionally then you’re moving dysfunctionally and over-time this can make the most simple movements become painful. The human body does not function in isolation, so no injury or pain is in isolation, you just don’t feel it yet. These problems can go beyond just the musculoskeletal system. Find out how that it is with the head tilt.
How a head tilt goes deeper than just muscles
A head tilt will even impact your ability to breathe efficiently. This is because biological breathing (the type of breathing we do when we are born) requires your 3 diaphragms (yes, you have 3), to be stacked on top of each other and parallel to the ground when standing up. They are the vocal diaphragm (at the throat), abdominal diaphragm at the bottom of the sternum, and the pelvic diaphragm (above the pubic bone). With head tilt, it is clear how the vocal diaphragm violates the biological breathing. Despite the fact that you can still breathe, the breathing is not optimal anymore, and is more dysfunctional than functional.
As you know, oxygenation of the body is required for ALL functions of the body and when you start ‘toying’ with that, any malfunction is a fair game. Over time, all parts of the body may be impacted including our hormones and brain. I am sure there is a diagnosis for each malfunction and some associated medicine or procedure to follow. You can see how easy it is to get lost in the realm of dysfunction and malfunction. This is a good time to watch this video on Proper Breathing and to put a stop to the potential causation of many issues to come.
If you thought a head tilt was just a neck problem, or even just a Postural and Biomechanical issue and no biggie, think again. I hope this information was helpful; to learn more about Postural Neurology or Functional Movement visit my website and check out my Youtube Channel and start incorporating the moves and recommendations in your daily life. Remember, you are the Designer and the Director of your own life so design and direct it the way you want to see it!!
As always, yours for better health,
Mamak Shakib, DC