Stiff Necks and Tension Headaches

Stiff Necks and Tension Headaches

Stiff necks and tension headaches are common enough symptoms of stress and are all too often dismissed as the norm of modern living. The
bad news is that stress can in fact do us serious physical damage and increasingly it is being cited as the modern day evil at the root of many chronic ailments. This prompted me to book my first session at The Body Stress Release Centre in Rivonia, Johannesburg, where I found that more and more people are finding relief from painful ailments in Body Stress Release technique. By Wendy Major.

Ewald and Gail Meggersee, both qualified chiropractors, began research into body stress release in 1981 and seven years later technique was introduced. Body Stress Release is a technique whereby pressure and human touch are used to release stress that has built up in the muscles in the body. The result is a greater sense of well-being and in many cases the complete healing of chronic ailments.

While our bodies need a certain amount of stress,” says Samantha Quigley, one of the practitioners at The Body Stress Release Centre in Rivonia, “stress overload causes the muscles of the body to react in a way that is detrimental to our health.”

The body’s reaction to stress starts in the muscles. Work pressure may cause the muscles in the neck to tense up, or bad posture may put the muscles of the lower back under strain. If this stress is not released it becomes locked in the afflicted muscle which eventually seizes up.

“When this happens we are seldom aware of it,” says Samantha. “As the muscle tenses up, the compression on the nerves actually inhibits the messages of pain and discomfort to the brain. The affected muscles are in fact numb.”

With Body Stress Release, muscles are stimulated in a way that takes the pressure off the nerves and life comes back into the muscles. This is why after a first session, the client may experience some pain and discomfort. With the release of tension, feeling starts to return to the muscle as it adapts to a new state of suppleness and sensitivity. At a second session patients frequently report a dramatically heightened sensitivity to pressure in the muscles. This is a good indicator to the practitioner that healing is taking place.

While body stress in the muscles can cause considerable pain and stiffness, the problem does not end there. “Muscles do not act in isolation,” says Samantha. “They support the organs of the body and other functions are blood circulation and the nervous system. Stress and compression in the muscles can very well hamper the healthy functioning of the body, giving rise to related and possibly serious ailments.”

To use an example, the muscles of the lower back support the organs in that region. If there is muscle tension in the lower back, the supply of nervous impulses and blood in the abdominal and reproductive areas is obstructed. This may result in problems like constipation, indigestion or infertility. Similarly, body stress in the neck may affect the shoulders, arms, hands and head. Symptoms range from headaches, dizziness and vision impairment to shoulder pain, pins and needles or numbness in the arms and hands.

Many are familiar with the mental and emotional stress of a hectic day or a traumatic experience. But there are other forms of stress which are frequently overlooked. Bad posture or incorrect exercising can put considerable and unnatural strain on the muscles.

Our body is also constantly under attack from chemical pollutants in food and cosmetics. The body’s intolerance to certain chemicals may give rise to a physical reaction in the muscles which causes a similar build up of body stress.


You stand up against a specially designed bed that is gradually lowered. Samantha explains, “It may be necessary to lower a person slowly in the case of a severe lower back problem. Also, at times, after body stress is released, there is a rapid relaxation of tensed muscles and the restoration of nerve impulses may cause a few moments of dizziness.”

It may seem puzzling to feel the practitioner poking sites along your spine and then hastening to look at your feet. What the practitioner is in fact doing is locating the exact sites of body stress by carrying out a series of pressure tests and observing the body’s response.

“The stimulation of the muscle causes a reflex action which shows in the feet,” explains Samantha. “The result is a slight shortening of the leg on that side of the body. This enables us to locate the source of tension.”

Having located the precise sites of body stress, light but definite pressure is applied in specific directions. The technique is not a massage. The applied pressure works on nerve impulses in the muscles: it is this activation of the nerves, which releases the compression in the muscles and explains the body’s rapid response. Each session involves a complete stimulation of the muscles of the body to improve the body’s own healing mechanisms.

“Effects may be dramatic,” says Samantha, “with instant relief of pain or straightening of distorted posture. But if the body stress has been present for a long time, it may take several sessions to release the layers of locked in tension. Once the stress has been released, clients are advised to return for body stress three or four times a year for health maintenance.” Alternatively you could treat yourself once a month to a session that really makes you feel great.

Body stress release does not diagnose or treat specific ailments. It only identifies areas of tension. But the technique involves a complete stimulation of the muscles of the body to improve the body’s own healing mechanisms.

Body Stress Release has played a crucial role in healing a wide range of ailments. One interesting case was a 28 year old man who had lost his voice completely. Doctors knew it was stress related but did not know how to treat it. A session of Body Stress Release revealed that the muscles in the neck which affect the larynx were in a state of such severe body stress that the functioning of the larynx was being obstructed. The result, three sessions of Body Stress Release and his voice returned.

In school-going children, body stress has frequently been found to be the cause of restless and disruptive behaviour, difficulties with concentration and so-called “growing pains” in the legs. “Children are very susceptible to body stress,” says Samantha. “Apart from their tendency towards having accidents, tension builds up quickly in their little muscles. Many children with these symptoms have been referred for Body Stress Release with very successful results.” At childbirth the baby is extremely prone to muscle strains. A difficult birth frequently leads to body stress, which causes extreme discomfort for the infant. The result is constant crying. “Body stress release has had phenomenal success with babies,” says Samantha, “a baby being very receptive to the technique”

Body Stress Release is a preventative school of thought. Practitioners advocate a healthy diet, frequent exercise and strategies for managing stress to build the body’s resilience and to assist the body in its natural ability to heal and maintain itself.

One or two sessions of Body Stress Release may be followed by aches and pains throughout the body. This is the body’s reaction to the stimulation as the muscles undergo an adaptive period and toxins are released. ”

The body is geared for stress and is always striving towards a state of balance,” says Samantha. But modern life brings with it so many forms of unnatural stress that our bodies don’t actually know how to cope, which explains the proliferation of modern day illnesses. Body Stress Release provides some gentle intervention which boosts the body’s healing ability and restores the balance.”

Tips to Minimize Back and Neck Pain

Back pain causes misery to millions each year. But by changing just a few bad habits we can protect our backs for the future and ease the agony
some of us are already suffering. The most common way that people injure their backs is by lifting something awkwardly. It doesn’t have to be a heavy object – twisting your spine reaching for something light can be just as harmful. When lifting, make sure your thighs take the strain, not your back. Bend your knees, keep your back straight, hold the object close to you stand up slowly. Don’t carry heavy bags on one shoulder – wear a backpack or hold the bag in front of you instead.

Sitting in the same position for a long time can also play havoc with your spine – especially if you don’t sit properly. Make sure you’ve got a decent chair with good lower-back support. Sit up straight, preferably with your seat tilted slightly downwards so your knees are lower than your hips. Hold your stomach in to support your back, put both feet on the floor and never cross your legs! Good posture is just as important when you’re upright Standing awkwardly or slouching around puts a lot of pressure on the lower back. Keep your shoulders down and relaxed, neck long and your back slightly curved. Don’t stick your bottom out and hollow and your back holding your stomach in will help prevent this. It can take a while to change bad posture to good, but stretching exercises will help. Back pain is very common during pregnancy because women tend to lean backwards to look balance their weight, which in turn, curves the lower back. This can get worse after the birth when carrying your baby adds even more strain. Gentle exercise during your pregnancy can help to prevent problems.

Even in bed, your posture is important. Lie on your back or side and avoid too many pillows, which twist your neck and back. Your mattress should be firm and well-sprung, but not too hard so it’s uncomfortable. A sagging mattress will bend your back, causing stiffness and aching.
Slouching on a comfy sofa is equally bad news for backs. The worst are the very low sofas where your bottom is below your knees while you’re sitting down. Tucking your knees by your side can over-extend your hip bone and twist your spine. Choose a higher, firmer sofa where you can sit upright.

If you already suffer from back pain, don’t wear high heels. They force your lower body forwards and your upper body to arch, which puts stress on your back. Also avoid shoes with leather soles as they send shockwaves through your skeleton. Cushioned soles or shock-absorbing insoles will prevent this problem.
Now you’ve made sure you’re not doing anything to cause your backache – go on the offensive! Exercise helps prevent back pain by strengthening your spine muscles. Concentrate on exercises for your back and stomach muscles. If you’ve already got back problems, don’t be afraid of gentle exercise. A recent study showed that after eight exercise classes with a physiotherapist, patients with back pain noticed a significant improvement in their symptoms.

Case History: “My neck and back hurt all the time” Sara Donman, 43, from Ascot, Berkshire. The first time I injured my neck was when I was working as a nurse and I foolishly lifted a patient by myself.

I heard my neck click and, that evening, it went into agonizing spasms. I had physiotherapy, but for the first few weeks I could hardly move. Fortunately I was well enough to get married seven weeks later but I never went back to nursing because of the injury to my neck.

When I got pregnant a year after Clive and I married, my lower back became very painful. I was told this was because of my neck injury and had physiotherapy again. I had three more children and my back problems got worse with each pregnancy. Acupuncture helped for a while, and I tried yoga but it wasn’t right for me and I was in agony.

Three years ago Clive and I started our own marketing business. Now I have to sit at a desk all day and my back was hurting all the time. My homeopath, who I see for other reasons, recommended I see a therapist, Paul Masureik, who practices a brand-new technique that originated in South Africa called Body Stress Release. At my first appointment I lay on my front, fully clothed on a mattress. Paul ran his hands over my vertebrae and gently stimulated the muscles by stroking and pressing them. It was the gentlest, most pain-free treatment I’d ever had but I felt much better after the first session. My neck felt freer and I had more energy.

Each session lasts about 40 minutes and, at first, I went every few days, but now I go about once a month. I’m fine now but I still go because the treatment is so relaxing! I was always wary of my back before and couldn’t do any vigorous exercise. Now I can go to aerobics without worrying, so I’m much fitter.