Thankfully, there is an alternative variation of shoulderstand that gives you exactly the same benefits as the "gymnastic" shoulderstand. In sanskrit this pose is often referred to as "viparita karani asana." It's basically a slightly modified version of shoulderstand, where instead of trying to get your body straight up and down, you allow your body to settle in a 'pike' pose, with a comfortable angle between the torso and legs. This allows you to take more of the weight of the body in the hands, elbows and arms, which decreases the weight and pressure on the cervical spine. It also creates more 'breathing' space between the chin and the torso - ideal for bodybuilders with tight pecs and shoulders and for busty women. The pose has a beautiful, mudra-like feel to it and allows you to breathe deeply into the belly. Drishti is either straight up, or at the belly if you can do this while still keeping the chin lifted high.
I can not say enough how much I love and prefer this pose!! Personally, I now only practice this asana instead of shoulderstand and I always teach it in classes (I call the two versions "classical" shoulderstand and "gymnastic" shoulderstand) - yet it took me years to come across it simply because it isn't taught in our modern asana classes. So without further ado, here you have it: viparita karani asana.
(NB: The usual counter-indications for this pose apply: you shouldn't be practicing inversions if you have untreated high blood pressure, angina, glaucoma, or osteoporosis of the spine, wrists or shoulders.)