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Stretch Therapy brings on Nausea/Dizziness

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I just completed the intro to Stretch Therapy material a week ago and as a practicing massage therapist in Texas I have the opportunity daily in our clinic to immediately start introducing the idea of stretching to clients at intake. I've had access to Kit's books and video for over a year however sharing time in class was vital for me to have support for my own experience in stretching. Here's some of the excitement we were having this week...

A client working as a janitor complaining of persistent headache running up the neck and behind his ear and neck tightness on his LS who is spending a lot of time working overhead. His Scalene and levator sensitive both sides to palpation. Not 5 minutes into his intake we went through a chair version of #17 neck side bend (lateral only) and headache absolutely resolved on the spot!!! I felt confident and moved on to #18 "neck forward abs side bend" (numbering from Overcoming Neck & Back Pain). He got through the exercise on the left side and instantly became very nauseous and had to stop.

Aside: The way I introduce the material to clients is to talk about their Relaxation response as a way to counter not only the physical discomfort but any root of fear that may underlie the discomfort they're experiencing as stress. In each case where I've framed the stretch therapy offer in this way clients have come forward with important information that they on reflection they are in fear - in this young man's case fear of losing his job because of a new manager. When I invite him to consider Relaxation as a priority at least as important as good nourishment he disclosed that he used to play guitar weekly and had stopped doing so as he clamped down at work. I suggested he return to guitar.

I gave him water and got him to the table and found everything suboccipital and off atlas working double-time with mastoid and pterygoids muscles bound up and sensitive. The jaw clenching continuing at night such that he wears a night guard.

So nausea settled after about 5 minutes and he was able to settle. I was able to continue with the treatment and earned his trust enough that he made a follow up appointment.

However as a practitioner I feel doubly responsible for clients experience and wanted to put the nausea in context and would like to invite input here from this forum. Of course nothing is going to replace being a compassionate human being in an instance like this however I'm curious if any other practitioners have a comment on this point.

I also repeated this exercise myself and found I would get dizziness creeping in on one side but not the other and had back off. Since this happened I've elected to have the client start with the simplest rotation Left and Right prior to any other neck stretch.


Michael Parrish

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On the workshop we just did, I suggestion that neck treatment best begins with careful neck rotation as the least invasive way in.

Any time you release long-held tension, this is a possible reaction. Do't go too hard early, and never ignore reports of 'spots in the vision' or similar; could be cervical artery involvement. I have copied the following from email exchanges between Michael and myself:

MP wrote:

I got him to the table and found everything suboccipital and off atlas working double-time. I noted his mastoid and jaw muscles bound up. What correlation do you make of patterns of clenching jaw, grinding teeth, etc and upper neck tension?

100%, as you probably thought

And where do you like to start in the chain to release the most discomfort?

Neck rotation first; low risk and the patient can do it solo, too.

Do a search on "nausea and neck pain"; there are many potential causes, but in the case of this person, you wrote that he is presently doing a lot of overhead work. This creates major lev. scapulae, upper fibres of trapezius, and whole-neck tension—it's one of the main causes of why house painters leave this trade—and compensating stretching and mobilisation needs to be done. Neck flexion is a decent part antidote.

Finally, neck lateral flexion I described on the workshop as the neck's least flexible ROM in the untrained; for this reason, rotation and flexion need to be explored first. kl

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I find the nausea set in with me when I´m doing stretches with the shoulder (which is where most of my tightness is held and needless to say emotional baggage ) when I really decided to work on this area recently and drive past my fears of it I experienced a range of feelings from nausea, tearfullness, anger) my advice to myself when this happens is to try and stay up right for at least a few minutes, breath through it and most definitely allow it to move through me and try NOT to swallow it back down. I also find that when this kind of break through happens with me I lay down very still and quiet and simply allow myself to process it. I don´t try to understand it, question it or even label it. I´m simply allow the process of freeing what ever it was to happen. I don´t resist anything that comes up, i just allow to move through me.

When I take this processing time I can experience visions of different pictures in my mind, emotions, smells even some times. Again, I don´t question any this just allow it to process, relax and enjoy the clam that then follows.

Re the client's jaw tightness, I have a lady with the same issue. She came to me complaining of constant neck pain in the front but mostly down the sides. It was evident that her jaw was incredibly tight. And so we have worked on releasing the jaw a lot, this release has definitely resonated down the neck and consequently her recurrent neck pain of a reported 20 years has started to subside.

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