“Sorry, honey. We’re not going to the movie today,” Jodi Moody told her disappointed son when he asked about the outing. “It broke my heart to let him down again. But he had grown used to my debilitating migraines,” Jodi recalls. “Michael is almost 18 now, and sadly, I don’t think he remembers a time when I wasn’t short of patience because of the chronic pain in my neck and head. I had accepted that this was going to be the way I’d live the rest of my life.
In constant pain.
“I spent 15 years in the photography industry doing work I loved. But a career change to a desk job almost 10 years ago meant more time looking down at my phone and keyboard.
The inversion cure for chronic pain.
“Almost everyone who spends lots of time on computers or phones suffers from ‘tech neck,’” a forward posture that causes back pain and headaches, says Russell Schierling, a chiropractor who specializes in pain management. The reason? The human head weighs about 10 pounds, but leaning forward increases the gravitational pull on the head, translating into up to 60 pounds of pressure on the muscles in the neck.
One study-proven solution: lying on an inversion table, which holds the body at an angle, allowing gravity to stretch out the back. This leads to an 83 percent improvement in back and neck pain, according to Stanford University researchers. Schierling explains, “Inversion allows injured discs to come back into alignment, removing stress on the spine.”
To get the benefits, he suggests using an inversion table like the Innova ITX9600 Heavy Duty Inversion Table (Buy on Amazon.com, $115.99) for 3 to 5 minutes per day, starting at 10 degrees and working up to 25 or 30 degrees. Don’t want to try an inversion table? Schierling also suggests the stretches at right to ease headaches.
“About five or six months into my new job, I started developing discomfort in my neck. ‘Maybe I slept funny,‘ I thought. But as days passed, the stiffness gained intensity. The pain started radiating into my head, causing nausea, fogginess and severe headaches.
“At first, I tried to ‘live with’ the pain and told myself that everyone got headaches. But it was impossible to function, and pain forced me to miss work for days at a time. The only way I could watch television with my husband and son was if I wore sunglasses.
“The nausea and brain fog added to my agony. I once stared at my hairbrush, knowing I was supposed to pick it up, but I couldn’t make my hand move because I was so fuzzy.
“As my symptoms increased, my outlook grew bleak. I frequently canceled plans with family and friends. My loved ones tried to be supportive, but I know they thought my migraines were an excuse to avoid being social.
Finally living again.
“At the suggestion of a co-worker, I saw a chiropractor, who explained that constantly looking down at my phone and keyboard had caused my neck muscles to stiffen and draw up, putting pressure on the nerves running up my neck and triggering migraines — a condition also called ‘tech neck.’ Weekly adjustments provided temporary relief, but not long-lasting comfort.
“Seeing me struggle, the chiropractor added physical therapy to my treatment plan, and my therapist told me that easy stretches could solve my problems. I was skeptical, but trying them that day was life-changing. I could feel the problem areas loosen up immediately.
“I was so surprised to find that stretching my neck muscles four times every day helped. Because it only takes a few minutes, I can stretch anywhere, and doing them on good days staves off the bad days and cuts down on the number and intensity of my headaches.
“The stretches work great, but they didn’t totally cure the problem. So I kept researching and learned about inversion tables, which reduce pressure on the back and neck by allowing you to hang at an angle by the ankles or feet. I was pretty nervous about lying on a table with my head angled toward the ground, but I purchased one anyway. I had my husband on standby the first time I used it, which turned out to be smart because I didn’t know how to pull myself back up! I later learned by watching YouTube videos.
“The first few times I lay on the table and inverted myself, the relief was instantaneous! I felt like I had just been to the chiropractor for an adjustment. But now I could get relief anytime, day or night. After just a few days of daily use, I had increased mobility in my neck and significantly less pain.
“These days, I use the table for 2 to 3 minutes every morning. On days I feel sore, I use the table in the evening too. I’m happier than I’ve been in nearly a decade and feel like I have a life now. I can be around people without being short-tempered, and I’m able to enjoy movies, watching TV or something as simple as being in a welllit room with my family. I was once brokenhearted because I was always disappointing my son. Now I can watch his face light up when we take a family day trip to a local amusement park, and I challenge him to go on rides!”
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.