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Remedy Stiff Neck and Headaches With Passive Stretching and Gravity Inversion

Juliette Kando is a dancer, choreologist, author on fitness and health, and Fellow of the Benesh Institute at the Royal Academy of Dance.

The areas most affected by poor carriage of the head.

The areas most affected by poor carriage of the head.

Passive Neck Stretches and Gravity Tables

We are all taught at school that the spinal curves help protect the spine against impact by creating a bounce effect. The problem is that when the spinal curves are too deep, they cause stiffness, backache, neck pain, and headaches. Painkillers, cortisone, and injections do not cure people of chronic pain. You are responsible for your own body. Watch and practice these 3 videos. They will help you avoid osteopathic treatment, or, in the most severe cases, surgery.

  • Passive Spine and Neck Stretch
  • Head Walk
  • Gravity Inversion

Before you start, the first thing to do is to make space to be able to freely move on the floor.

Make Space

Stand sideways to a full-length mirror or window pane and examine the shape of your spine. Where are the bulges, where are the hollows? If you see an over-curvature in your spine, this is what you can do to straighten it out a little and reduce the depths of the curves: Make a space on the floor, large enough to take your full outstretched shape as shown in the next picture.

Your floor space should be big enough to accommodate these positions

Your floor space should be big enough to accommodate these positions

Lying Supine on the Floor

Next, check whether you are capable of lying down on your back on the floor comfortably. Study the next picture.

Gravity can help to straighten out over-curvature in the neck and spine.

Gravity can help to straighten out over-curvature in the neck and spine.

Lying on the Floor Comfortably

Look at the picture above and figure out which props, if any, you need to be able to relax on the floor (not on a bed). With appropriate supports ready to make you comfortable (firm cushions, stiff bolster or a rolled-up towel) you can passively straighten your neck and spine as follows:

Lie on the floor with three supports if necessary as shown in the video. Get set up with:

  1. A large cushion under the knees
  2. A small support under the chest area, and
  3. A couple of dictionaries under the back of the head
  • Adjust the size of supports so you are comfortably lying down with your chin down, without bending the neck back.
  • Now close your eyes, relax. Breathe deeply while being aware of sinking deeper into mother earth with every long, slow out-breath.
  • While keeping the chin down, visualise and feel your head stretching away from your shoulders.
  • You can even "walk" with your shoulder blades away from your waist to elongate the midriff, then the back of the neck.

Once you are able to lie down comfortably on the floor, with or without support, healing can begin. Close your eyes, relax, breathe, and allow gravity to work to your body's advantage. Then slowly proceed with the gentle arm movements as shown in the next video.

The video above is a response to readers' comments on the article How to Treat and Cure a Stiff Neck to Ease the Pain, which has many exercises to stretch and strengthen the neck muscles to cure headaches and neck pain.

Scroll to Continue

From the many comments received on that publication, the need arose for a pre-requisite (the above video), a number one exercise for preventing and curing upper back, shoulder, and neck pain. We all know said neck pain, often resulting in headaches that come from stiffness and tension. So, where does that stiffness come from?

What Is Stiffness?

Stiffness is the result of a lack of full mobility in the joints with the consequence of shortened muscles, ligaments, and tendons. While "stretching" is the term generally used to get rid of stiffness, the term "stretching" is actually not quite accurate for the function of keeping one's body parts working to full anatomical (nature-given) capacity. Slow neck rolls, for example, do not "stretch" anything at all, you merely go through the motions of keeping the neck loose and mobile enough to be able to look around to enjoy watching butterflies or the birds fly high in the sky.

Gently moving the neck through the three planes of motion, the Sagittal, Transverse, and Frontal planes which I refer to as 'Yes', 'No', and 'Maybe'.

Gently moving the neck through the three planes of motion, the Sagittal, Transverse, and Frontal planes which I refer to as 'Yes', 'No', and 'Maybe'.

The Cause of Your Pain

Did you know that an average adult human head weighs 6 kilograms or about 13 pounds? The reason you get a stiff neck is that your neck muscles spasm from holding your head up in an unbalanced position all day. The passive spine and neck stretch will re-align the vertebrae, and strengthen the muscles in the neck and spine to be able to carry and support the head in a well-balanced neutral position at all times. In addition, if you spend a lot of time at the computer, it is advisable to re-design your workstation to suit your body better and make sure to get up and move frequently.

Keeping the head above the spine

Keeping the head above the spine

Where Does a Headache Come From?

Most headaches stem from an over-curvature of the cervical vertebrae (the neck) caused by a forward head posture. Such over-curvature prevents free blood flow to the brain and causes conscription headaches. The head should be balanced above the spine instead of held forward in front of the body. Carrying the head in front of the body demands unnecessary effort from the neck and shoulder muscles to the point of spasm. This spasm is the neck and shoulder pain you feel. So the answer is a longer, straighter neck. But then again, actually, there is no such thing as a short neck. We all have seven cervical vertebrae. Funny enough, even a giraffe has only seven neck vertebrae. They are just very large.

The apparent shortness of a neck lies in an over-curvature when the neck vertebrae are not aligned where they should be; when the head is carried in front of the spine instead of directly above it. Now you know this, you can learn to "elongate" your neck and widen the shoulders with the passive spine and neck stretch, and bingo, less chance of a headache.

To redress a forward head posture, go the opposite way: up with the crown and back with the upper body.

To redress a forward head posture, go the opposite way: up with the crown and back with the upper body.

Brain Damage

Daily habits and dress codes, such as wearing tightly buttoned-up shirts and ties, hinder movement in the neck. As mentioned earlier, a lack of movement and stiffness in the neck prevents the free flow of blood supply to the brain. So another good reason for staying loose in the neck is that when the neck is blocked, the brain ceases to function at full capacity.

Ever wondered why tight-necked, shoulder-raised politicians give us so much aggravation that makes no common sense at all? Their brains may not work to their full potential! Could it be then that businessmen and politicians, that class of the most powerful humans who wear suits, stiff-collar shirts and ties, may have lost the plot? I leave you to ponder, meanwhile, how can you treat your own neck back to health?

How Often?

Do the passive spine and neck stretch two or three times a day or whenever you feel a lack of concentration, tiredness, and stiffness in the body. If you delay the treatment, there will be no cure for your pain. Eventually, you’ll be sitting at your laptop in agony, making mistakes, or writing utter garbage because your brain will be deprived of sufficient blood and oxygen to function properly. So get off your seat now and go lie down on the floor, as shown above. It’ll only take a few minutes. When you recover, your productivity will be greatly improved. So, in the long run, you are gaining time and a higher quality output.

Advanced Neck Exercise Video

The following video shows the "Head Walk," an advanced neck exercise for those who are comfortable lying on the floor without a cushion under the head. Remember, if your neck is short, i.e., too deeply curved, do not do the "Head Walk" yet until you have elongated and re-aligned your neck fully. Instead, skip to the next paragraph where you get a chance to lengthen your neck without doing anything at all other than reverse the force of gravity.

Anti-Gravity Treatment — Gravity Inversion

You may want to invest in the most effective piece of remedial equipment on the market today: a gravity inversion table. I bought one upon recommendation of an osteopath years ago when I had such a severe attack of sciatica from back pain that I could not walk. I had to crawl to go to the bathroom. Ever since using the gravity inversion table, I haven't felt any pain or stiffness in my back, neck, or shoulders, let alone any headaches. Watch the next video to see how it works.

Where to Get a Gravity Inversion Table?

Get Upside Down!

Chronic pains in the neck, shoulders, back and most headaches are all self-inflicted through constant bad posture tension (muscle spasm). Rather than becoming addicted to painkillers or regularly visiting a chiropractor you can prevent and cure such pains yourself with the three videos shown in this article.

  • Passive stretching
  • Strengthening with head walk
  • Gravity Inversion

Good luck with your recovery and please leave your questions and comments below.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


Juliette Kando FI Chor (author) from Andalusia, southern Spain on May 03, 2012:

Hi LivingFood, nice to have you on board.

The exercise "Yes,No,and Maybe" covers the movements for the neck through the three planes of motion. I actually invented the name "Yes, No and Maybe" for teaching as it is so much clearer and easier to remember than the actual names of the planes: sagittal (Yes), transverse (No)and Frontal (Maybe). Keep doing it to avoid neck pain.

LivingFood on May 03, 2012:

Excellent information! I didn't know they had a name, but I love the "yes, no maybe" stretches for my neck when sitting at the computer. Loved the video routine!

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