Head Tilt

A Complete Guide to Correcting a Head Tilt

Head tilt can lead to chronic pain, numbness in the arms and hands, improper breathing and even pinched nerves. That’s because every inch your neck is tilted forward puts an additional 5 pounds of weight on your neck. Many people don’t even realize they have poor neck posture, so you should check your posture to see if prolonged computer use, television, or incorrect sleeping positions have affected your head posture. Stretch and lengthen your muscles with specific exercises to relieve tension and other symptoms of poor neck posture.

Diagnosing incorrect posture with the Wand test

Stand with your back flat against a wall.

Your heels should be shoulder-width apart, your butt pressed against the wall, and ensure your shoulder blades are touching the wall (this is more important than the tops of your shoulders touching the wall). You may need to squeeze your shoulder blades together slightly to bring them into a more natural position that’s in line with the wall. This is also sometimes called “opening the chest”. Pay attention to your head position as you position yourself. Notice if the back of your head is touching the wall or not. If it’s not touching the wall, your head is tilted forward, and you likely suffer from weak neck muscles.

Establish the correct head position by leaning the back of your head against the wall.

Imagine that a cord is stretched from the base of your neck to the top of your head. Pull this cord up from the top to get a longer neck. At the same time, as your neck stretches, your chin should tilt in and down slightly to point more towards the neck. This is the correct neck and head position. Make sure you don’t just push your head back and thus lengthen the neck curve – this is also a bad posture. Focus on lengthening your neck.

Stand like that for a minute.

This is your correct head position and you want your body to remember it. Do this pose often to see how your posture changes.

Relax tense muscles by stretching

Loosen up the back of your head with a massage ball.

The small muscles at the back of your head – where your neck meets your head – are your occipital muscles. Tension at this point can cause too much pain and stiffness, sometimes even causing headaches and dizziness. The best way to loosen these muscles is with a ball massage. Take a tennis ball, racquetball, small foam roller, or something similar in shape. Lie flat on your back with your face up and place the ball directly on the back of your head, just above your spine. Turn your head from side to side and roll over different spots. Do this for about 5 minutes, making sure to massage both sides.

Stretch your neck regularly.

Stand up straight Tilt your chin towards your chest. Interlace your fingers and place them behind your head. DO NOT push your head down, but use the weight of your arms to apply slight pressure to your head to allow your neck to stretch. Hold this for 30 seconds. Repeat three times or more.

Stretch the sides of your neck.

Stand or sit in an upright position. With your nose pointed straight ahead, bring your right ear to your right shoulder. Place your right hand on the left side of your head and allow the weight of your arm to pull your head down gently. This stretches the left side of your neck. Again, don’t actively pull your head down; just allow the weight of your arm to apply gentle pressure. When your shoulders sag forward, bend your left elbow and place your left arm behind your back (if your head is tilted to the right), palm out. Hold this position for 30 seconds on each side and repeat 3 times.

Loosen the large head turner at the front of your neck.

Your sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscle is the strong, thin muscle that starts just behind your ear and extends down the middle of your neck (it attaches to the end of your collarbone near the middle of your body). This will also create the small V-shaped dip at the front of your neck. You should be able to feel this strong muscle strand. Find it and gently massage it by gently pinching it under your fingers and rolling it around. Go up and down along the entire muscle strand. Don’t press too hard down your throat where you might hit other sensitive areas. The massaging motion is more like gently pulling or pushing the SCM muscle away from your neck. It can help if you find the muscle and relax it by turning your head the other way. Turn your head to the left (nose pointing straight ahead) to find your right SCM muscle.

Stretch your chest muscles.

Stand in a doorway. Place your right arm against the right side of the door with your palm facing the door. Bend your elbow at a 90-degree angle and flat your forearm against the side door frame. Take a small step forward with your right foot and keep your arm against the door. You should feel your pecs stretch near your armpits. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

Get advice from a physical therapist.

Chiropractors and masseurs are experts in understanding and healing pain caused by poor posture. Visit a sports massage therapist or see a chiropractor and ask for tips on stretching and exercises at home.

Strengthen your muscles through exercise

Do chin curls, also called “nose nods.”

Lie face up on your back, bend your knees, and place your feet flat on the floor so you don’t strain your lower back. Your nose should be straight up (pointing straight at the ceiling). Now slowly nod your head forward without raising your neck. Imagine making a small curve with the tip of your nose. Keep your movements very slow. Slowly bring your nose back to its vertical position. Repeat 10 times. In the next few days you should increase your repetitions to 20 repetitions. The following week you start doing 2 to 3 sets of squats a day. Once you’ve gotten used to the movement, you can also do them standing – either leaning against a wall or freestanding without a wall.

Practice shoulder presses.

Sit upright in a chair. Your neck should be long and your knees bent at a 90-degree angle with your feet on the floor. Squeeze your shoulder blades together as if they should touch. Hold this position for 3 seconds – as if you wanted to hold a tennis ball between your shoulder blades. Then slowly relax your posture until you are completely relaxed. Intentionally drop your shoulders if they’re pulled closer to your ears due to tension. Let your arms hang loosely. Repeat this exercise 10 times and move in a controlled manner. Increase the time to hold for 10 seconds, and then do 2 to 3 sets of exercises daily as you get stronger. Tight chest and weak back muscles are very common in people who spend a lot of time at a desk in front of a computer. This usually causes your shoulders to sag forward. This exercise is helpful to correct bad posture.

Increase your range of motion by doing advanced chin curls.

Sit in a chair or stand up straight. Practice your chin bends/nose nods a few times. Bend your chin, tilting your nose slightly downward. Once your chin is tucked in, keep it the same distance from your neck, but tilt the top of your head back. Hold this pose for a few seconds and slowly move as you bring your head back to an upright position. Do the exercise 10 times and work up to increased repetitions and series of exercises. Remember that you are not trying to lengthen your neck curve during this exercise. You try to push your head back neutrally and correctly. People who have had a head tilt for a long time often find it very difficult at first.

Improve your posture through daily habits

Set up your computer ergonomically.

Raise your screen so that the top third of your screen is at eye level. Measure the distance from your screen to your eyes to ensure it’s 18 to 24 inches from your face. You may need to put your computer on some books, use a higher or lower desk, or adjust the height of your chair. Use a tape measure to determine how far your face is from the screen, and adjust where you place your chair.

Avoid carrying heavy bags or purses.

Try to keep your shoulder bag or purse as small and light as possible. If you have to carry a lot, it is better to use a backpack than a single-strap bag. Also, get a backpack that is made for even weight distribution. Also, avoid always carrying bags on the same shoulder, leading to poor posture. Change shoulders regularly.

Stretch every 30 minutes when sitting in front of a desk, TV, or computer.

If you work at a desk or in front of a computer, get up and move around often to relieve strain on your neck and back. Taking a short break every half hour as you walk around can be very beneficial. Try taking a half minute or minute every 2 hours to do neck stretches. The same applies when you sit on the sofa and watch TV.

Buy a neck support pillow.

If you often wake up with a stiff neck, you probably have poor sleeping posture. A neck support pillow lets your head fall into the center of the pillow and supports your neck with a firm, curved section on the bottom of the pillow.

Stand with good posture.

Keep your shoulders back and parallel as you walk. Tighten the muscles in your core (your abs) to keep your body straight. Bend your knees a little to take pressure off your hips. Invest in shoes that provide good arch support – it’s amazing how much this can contribute to good posture!

Walk upright

As you walk, keep your chin parallel to the floor and walk with a heel-to-toe motion. Don’t stare at your feet or arch your back—your butt and stomach should be in line with the rest of your body.

Try a posture belt.

This helps improve posture by pushing the shoulders back, and forcing the head into the correct position. Wearing a posture belt daily not only helps improve overall posture but also puts your shoulders in the right position.

About the Author

Daniel Carter

Daniel Carter is a senior writer and editor at CouponKirin. His work has been featured by The Associated Press, USA Today, the Chicago Tribune, and Reuters. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. When he’s not writing about money, Carter enjoys traveling around the world.