How to Do a Head Tilt: A Hinge Health Guide

Learn how to do head tilts to ease neck and shoulder tension, plus modifications to make this exercise easier or harder.

Published Date: Oct 27, 2023
mal-tilting-his-head

How to Do a Head Tilt: A Hinge Health Guide

Learn how to do head tilts to ease neck and shoulder tension, plus modifications to make this exercise easier or harder.

Published Date: Oct 27, 2023
mal-tilting-his-head

How to Do a Head Tilt: A Hinge Health Guide

Learn how to do head tilts to ease neck and shoulder tension, plus modifications to make this exercise easier or harder.

Published Date: Oct 27, 2023
mal-tilting-his-head

How to Do a Head Tilt: A Hinge Health Guide

Learn how to do head tilts to ease neck and shoulder tension, plus modifications to make this exercise easier or harder.

Published Date: Oct 27, 2023
mal-tilting-his-head
Table of Contents

Did you know that neck pain is the second most common musculoskeletal issue in the U.S.? (Low back is first.) In fact, up to 80% of people will experience neck pain at some point in their lives. And if you’re staring at your phone or computer as you read this, well, that could be a big reason for the stiffness, soreness, or reduced range of motion you may feel. Hey, that’s what the science says. But don’t worry. We’ve got the antidote stretch coming right up.  Head tilts and other neck exercises can help stretch the muscles on the sides of your neck and upper back, easing muscle tension and pain and promoting better mobility. 

Our Hinge Health Experts

Dylan Peterson, PT, DPT
Physical Therapist and Clinical Reviewer
Dr. Peterson is a Hinge Health physical therapist who focuses on developing clinical exercise therapy programs and member education.

Tap into pain relief. Anytime, anywhere with our app.

Get exercises from a licensed physical therapist and more to relieve your pain. All right from your phone. At $0 cost to you.
Start your app tour

What Is a Head Tilt?

The head tilt is a simple stretch that helps relieve stiffness and pain in your neck and upper back.

What Muscles Do Head Tilts Work? 

This targeted exercise primarily stretches these two muscle groups:

Sternocleidomastoid. These powerful muscles are located on either side of your neck. They run from your collarbones to the base of your skull. They allow you to turn, tilt, and bend your neck.  

Trapezius. A large, flat diamond-shaped back muscle, the trapezius spans from your neck to your shoulders and tapers down to the middle of your back. It helps stabilize your posture, keeping you in a comfortable position, and is responsible for functions like shrugging your shoulders, tilting, turning, lifting and lowering your neck, and raising your arms. 

Benefits of Head Tilts

Reduced neck pain. A recent study of office workers with chronic neck or shoulder pain, published in the journal Clinical Rehabilitation, found that doing stretching exercises regularly reduced pain and improved neck mobility and quality of life after four weeks. Moves like head tilts may also keep you from tightening up in the first place. A systematic review showed that exercise programs that included stretching reduced the risk of developing neck pain by 53%.

Improved mobility. Whether it’s turning your neck to check out something behind you, or looking up to change a lightbulb, good neck mobility makes all sorts of daily activities easier and less painful.

Better sleep. Finding a comfortable sleeping position when your neck hurts can be tough — and could torpedo a good night’s rest. Regularly doing neck tilts before bed could relieve muscle tension so you can get solid slumber. Fewer headaches. Neck pain and headaches — from migraines to the tension-related type — often co-occur, with the former often contributing to the latter. One study found that people who reported headaches were around 68% more likely to experience neck pain as well, compared to those without frequent headaches. There’s also good evidence that stretching exercises can greatly reduce headaches associated with neck pain. 

Head Tilts: Exercises and Modifications 

The information contained in these videos is intended to be used for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice or treatment for any specific condition. Hinge Health is not your healthcare provider and is not responsible for any injury sustained or exacerbated by your use of or participation in these exercises. Please consult with your healthcare provider with any questions you may have about your medical condition or treatment.

How to Do a Head Tilt

How to Do a Head Tilt

How to Do a Head Tilt

How to Do a Head Tilt

To do a head tilt:

  • Start by standing or sitting comfortably.

  • Slowly tilt your head to the side, lowering your ear toward your shoulder.   

  • Hold here, then lift your head back to the starting position.

  • Now tilt your head to the opposite side.

  • Return to the starting position and repeat.

  • As you do each rep, you might feel a stretch in your neck muscles.

Everyone is different, which is why you may need to modify this exercise to meet your needs. 

To make head tilts easier:  

  • Limit how far you tilt your head to each side.

  • Try the exercise sitting down.

To make head tilts harder: 

  • As you tilt your head, use your opposite hand to gently apply pressure to your head to increase the stretch.

How Hinge Health Can Help You 

If you have joint or muscle pain that makes it hard to move, you can get the relief you’ve been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program. 

The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you.  

Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition. Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you. 

See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.

This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.

$0 Cost to you

Looking for pain relief? Check if your employer or health plan covers our program

Join more than 800K members and over 1,700 companies that trust Hinge Health to get relief.

References

  1. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, et al. (2020). Musculoskeletal Disorders. National Academies Press. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK559512/

  2. de Campos, Tarcisio F., et al. Exercise Programs May Be Effective in Preventing a New Episode of Neck Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. (2018). Journal of Physiotherapy, vol. 64, no. 3, pp. 159–165. doi:10.1016/j.jphys.2018.05.003

  3. Castien, Re., and De Hertogh W. (2019). A Neuroscience Perspective of Physical Treatment of Headache and Neck Pain. Frontiers in Neurology, vol. 10, published online. doi:10.3389/fneur.2019.00276

  4. Sollmann, Nico, et al. (2023). Headache Frequency and Neck Pain Are Associated with Trapezius Muscle T2 in Tension-Type Headache among Young Adults. The Journal of Headache and Pain, vol. 24, no. 1. doi:10.1186/s10194-023-01626-w