Posterior Neck Release + Spine Traction – For Reverse Whiplash, Post Fall Recovery & Sore Necks

If you’ve ever fallen face first, woke up with a sore neck or had any kind of accident that leads to posterior neck and upper back muscle soreness – you’re going to LOVE this technique!

Are you finding this immediately after a recent fall?

During the day or two immediately following a fall, what we do (and DON’T) is critical. If you fell as recently as today or yesterday, BEFORE attempting the technique in this post please figure out if you have traditional or reverse whiplash, and of course – if you have broken bones, a possible spine misalignment or neck pain (in the bones/joints), please see your preferred health care professional first.

Traditional whiplash:

Traditional whiplash occurs during car accidents and other falls where the FRONT of our body locks into contraction to protect the cervical spine from snapping and killing us. Typically with this kind of whiplash your chest and biceps and maybe the front of your neck are what contract really tightly to protect you. This can happen with or without the presence of obvious soreness in these muscles.

Are you experiencing reverse whiplash?

This is what happened to me recently, and what led me to invent today’s technique.

(Please note the term “reverse whiplash” is mine, and is simply meant to describe what’s occurring muscularly compared to traditional whiplash and is not meant to diagnose or treat anyone. As far as I know it’s not an “official” name for anything).

How does reverse whiplash happen?

I was hiking up a mountain on a snowy trail wearing microspikes when one one set of spikes got caught on the other. My feet were essentially tied together, which meant I couldn’t bend a knee or put a foot down or break my fall in any other way than falling face first into the snow. My hands broke my fall, my face inches from the cold white ground. I didn’t know it at the time, but my entire posterior chain from the base of my skull all the way to my tailbone contracted quickly and powerfully to stop me from hitting my skull, pelvis or other important joints on the hard ground. Essentially, they were attempting to “pull” me back, away from the ground, which resulted in my doing a near perfect fall to low plank without anything but my hands hitting the ground.

At the time I thought I’d gotten away with it all…

Until I woke up the next morning with the most sore neck I’ve ever had. I’ve been in car 2 pretty bad accidents and walked away with less pain than this fall! I could barely turn my head or look down or move my neck, shoulders, arms or spine without intense muscle soreness. Thankfully no broken bones or joints out of place! No pain other than the most sore muscles I’ve ever experienced.

I’ve called this reverse whiplash because it wasn’t my anterior chain that took the brunt of this fall, it was my posterior chain.

What we’re targeting:

We’re going after almost everything you see below: some lateral/peripheral SCM fascia and muscle, all the splenius muscles of the cervical spine, subocciptals, multifidi, as well as portions of levator scapulae and upper trapezius muscles and fascia.

Image from Lumen Learning. https://courses.lumenlearning.com/ap1/chapter/axial-muscles-of-the-head-neck-and-back/

We’re also targeting the entire spine from occiput to SI joint with traction; not to adjust the spine, but to gently engage it; to give it some moments of space where the brain and body can connect and get on the same page for healing. Plus, it just feels good! If it doesn’t feel good, don’t do it.

Before trying this technique make sure you…

  • Know WHY you’re doing it, and…
  • Make sure it feels like a safe thing to do.

WHY you should (or maybe shouldn’t) do this technique:

Anyone with a sore/stiff/achy neck can try this, even if you haven’t taken a fall recently! If you’re not in pain but sit at a desk all day or just want to give your neck some love…but all means give this a whirl 🙂

But if you have taken a fall recently it’s critical to make sure you’re targeting your body correctly.

For example, doing this technique when your body is much more in need of release on the anterior or FRONT of your body will likely set you back rather than help you find relief.

If you’re at all unsure if you should be doing this, maybe consult your chosen therapist, chiropractor or doctor first. Or consider a Skype session with me, where I can coach you through the best techniques for your body and its current challenges.

In the video I show you how to traction your spine, including your cervical spine – and if you have anything going on in your spine that might not like this (such as bulging discs, pinched nerves, vertebrae out etc) then proceed with caution or ask your doctor or chiropractor if this is a good idea for you.

You could certainly do the soft tissue part without the traction!

Do this technique if:

  • You are NOT currently experiencing traditional whiplash symptoms/pain
  • You ARE experiencing something like I’ve described above as reverse whiplash (WITHOUT the presence of structural issues)
  • Your posterior neck muscles are sore, achy, tight and you have no spine issues that would make this dangerous
  • You know traction works well for your spine, and/or
  • You’ve been cleared by a doctor to try this for whatever pain you are currently experiencing

Please watch the video for full instructions! If you need some visual reminders of what to do…

Basic sequence to love up your posterior neck:

Start by finding the right placement of the ball on your neck – one end should be resting against your skull, where the cervical spine stops and your cranium (head) begins.

Next, get your low back and butt supported by the foam roller.


This will put the most compression onto those small muscles of the cervical spine and traction your neck. Also use your arms to lengthen your upper traps.

Play around with bent knees or straight legs, and if neither of those feel good – just rest your back on the foam roller or don’t use the foam roller at all.

DON’T do this if you have low back pain – just rest your feet on the ground.

PLAY with what feels right to you. Try rolling your head side to side. Roll to one side and gently nod up and down. Untuck and retuck your chin. And try all this again on a different spot by moving the ball down.

How to get the most out of this technique:

  • Watch the video and follow along for the best result!
  • PLEASE make sure you use a ball exactly or very much like the small medicine ball I demo with. I’m not currently aware of anything else that would work as well. Please DON’T use a hard ball like a lacrosse ball or baseball (OUCH!) Please also don’t use something too soft, though soft is preferable here.
  • Take time to locate the sore muscles you’re targeting in the neck region.
  • Try to place the ball squarely on those areas, either distributing your weight equally or onto one side at a time.
  • Once you find those spots and put your weight into them, make small movements using your HIPS/PELVIS and the foam roller to “PIN AND RELEASE” these areas.
  • For some feel good massage (which won’t release fascia but WILL feel good and I am all about feel good options in conjunction with those that are meant to get you out of pain), just rock gently back and forth on those spots, or use your head tilting up and down to gently massage them.
  • Play around with the traction part until you find something that feels good, and please STOP doing anything that doesn’t feel right in your spine!

For the best possible result, add other techniques for a more complete solution:

  • Rhomboid release is a good option, which can be found by clicking here.
  • Upper trap release – you can use the rhomboid technique above, just target a higher area into the traps.
  • Tricpes was a good one for me! Try it yourself by clicking here.
  • And of course, if you have the other kind of whiplash, go after your ANTERIOR CHAIN: biceps, brachialis, pec major/minor, front deltoids and scalenes/SCMs. You can search this site for those techniques.

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