Washington Post, and the perils of slouching have been written about ad nauseum.
I won’t get into that today, because I think there’s a problem that is a lot more important but gets far less attention. Most doctors will ignore this, but chances are it’s a major contributor to headache, balance disorders, vision problems, and overall brain health.
Today we’re going to break down your head tilt.
Cute for Puppies and Sorority Poses, Bad for Patients with Neurological Issues
First we should clarify a couple of things. When we discuss head tilt, we’re not talking about the tilt that comes on when you intentionally tilt your head for a photo. If you are intentionally creating a momentary head tilt, it’s not a big deal. There’s no such thing as a bad posture if you are willfully and intentionally trying to create a specific shape with your body in gravity.
We only classify postures as negative when your body is doing something that it is not intending. If I ask you to stand up as straight as you can and your head tilts to side, it paints a much different picture of your brain than if I asked you to purposefully hold your head to the side. An inability for you to create a straight upright posture suggests that you have a deficiency in your brain’s ability to control your muscular system. You can read about that in greater detail here: Why Your Posture Isn’t That Important
So what’s the big deal if your head tilts to the side? It’s a sign that your brain is perceiving the world around it incorrectly.
If your brain is getting wrong information from your senses, then it can’t produce the right response to the world around it.
It doesn’t sound like a big deal when we’re talking about posture, muscles, and bones, but let’s apply the same idea to some of your other senses:
- If you have a problem with one of your eyes, how will that affect your ability to catch a baseball?
- If your ears are hearing a high pitched noise all of the time when everything is quiet, how will that make you feel?
- If your skin is constantly itching, but you have nothing on your skin that is irritating it, will you keep scratching? All of these are examples of your brain perceiving the environment incorrectly and they all lead to specific conditions from a lack of depth perception, tinnitus, to neuropathic itch. When left for a long time, these conditions can have a significant impact on your enjoyment of life.
So what are the consequences of a chronic head tilt?
The Physiology of Head Tilt
How your brain decides to hold the head up involves a lot more neurology than most people expect. Generally speaking, we think about head tilts being a result of tight muscles pulling the head out of place. When we use this model, treatments become a matter of rubbing one muscle and stretch another and the head will be straight again.
For better or worse, the way the brain moves the head is WAY more complex than that. Your brain decides where to put your head in space based on the interplay of your inner ear organ, your eyes, and the small muscles of your neck. Here’s how it works:
What Happens When Your Head Tilt Breaks?
This is why the biggest problems associated with whiplash and concussion injuries are balance and vision issues. You can’t keep your perception of the world straight if your eyes, ears, and spine are giving you inaccurate information about gravity!
When your head and neck get scrambled by a hit and you disrupt these 3 systems, your body takes on an abnormal head posture which can make the other systems work inappropriately. One of the first things I’ll ask someone during a consultation is to sit up as straight as they can, and I’ll look at where they put their head in space. Very often they look like this:
- Feeling off balance
- Neck and back pain
- Nausea Why? Because if your eyes don’t move well, then it leads to difficulty reading or tracking targets in space. If your neck doesn’t move well, it causes pain and headaches. If you have all three systems saying different things, your brain has no idea how to determine it’s sense of balance.
Your Brain Hates Mismatches
Your brain hates it when its sensory organs give it conflicting information causing sensory mismatches. It hates it more than your significant other hates it when you walk out of the door with a brown belt and black shoes.
All kidding aside, these sensory mismatches are the main trigger for the balance issues that can make people miserable. When you combine that with the fact that the balance system shares connections to your autonomic nervous system, then it gives us an understanding for why balance problems can really wreak havoc on our stress response system.
The abnormal movement of the eyes and head are also likely to create persistent headaches and pain in your joints and muscles from abnormal loading patterns.
While the symptoms can be bad enough, the biggest concern is the impact that these maladaptive patterns have on the functioning of the brain as a whole. If you can’t orient your world properly, then the parts of your brain that are responsible for normal function start to degrade while the parts of the brain that are producing these abnormal patterns get stronger. This persistent abnormal head pattern can change the way blood flow and oxygen get to various parts of the brain and lead to further problems with thought, focus, and movement.
If we want to make a real impact on the health of your brain, then we have to allow the brain to stop compensating and get your head on straight again.
Real Patient Testimonials
I can’t say enough how much my life has changed under Dr. Chung’s care. After 10 years of chronic pain and being dismissed by my neurologist, I came to Dr. C. He was caring, and really listened. After only 2 visits, I have already had a tremendous reduction in my pain! I feel like a new person.
I can't say how much Dr Jonathan Chung has given me back a full quality of life. Migraines was my daily focus, brought my on by a minor car accident few years before. I thought I was going to live with pain medications for the rest of my life. After seeing 2 neurologist prior I was convinced that was my life. But I never stop searching for holistic approaches which led me to Keystone Chiropractic. Thank you.
Dr.Chung has been a huge part of my journey to getting back to how I was before my dizziness and vestibular issues. Under his care I am now better than how I was before and I am able to live a normal life again. He is passionate about his patients and he’s such a great person. I’m so happy he’s my doctor! His staff is amazing as well!