Occupational Stress

Willy Cherry, PT Willy Cherry PT Inc
Fresno, California


First responders and veterans often experience trauma while serving. An estimated 10% of first responders worldwide experience Occupational Stress.  They can experience recurring memories, insomnia, nightmares, apathy, emotional liability, physical pain, constant vigilance, and an inability to effectively and calmly deal with stress.  These symptoms can interfere with activities of daily living and can surface months or even years after the traumatic event occurred. People who have served and protected us frequently use methods such as drug and alcohol abuse to help them cope.  They often pull away from others and isolate themselves.  Unfortunately, the suicide rate in this population is high: In 2014, an average of 20 veterans died by suicide each day.

Fascial Counterstrain Treatment

Fascial Counterstrain manual therapy has offered a solution to this problem.  This therapy is able to effectively manipulate the fascial systems of the body: vascular, visceral, neural, musculoskeletal, all of which can enact protective reflex spasms in response to trauma.  Fascia reflexively contracts around a structure which has been injured or threatened by mechanical, temperature or chemical means.  Spinal cord reflexes then also “re-route” nearby muscles to contract, in essence to help splint the involved structure, and protect it from further damage.  When reflexive guarding sets in, dysfunction occurs.  In the extremities, this can cause pain, edema, limited range of motion, weakness, neuropathy, and vascular inefficiency.  In the torso, this dysfunction can cause digestive issues, chest and abdomen pain, heart and lung irregularities (such  as difficulty breathing and tachycardia), and decreased range of motion in the ribcage and spine.  In the head and neck, we see symptoms such as pain, migraines, sinus issues, facial nerve palsy, trigeminal neuralgia, changes in brain function, insomnia, and emotional dysregulation.   When a Fascial Counterstrain release is performed, the involved fascial tissues are slackened.  This decompression of the free nerve endings mechanically deactivates the local pain and mechanoreceptors, silencing the associated protective reflexes.  Local inflammation is also impacted: As the involved tissues are decompressed, local venous and lymphatic vessels open and drain inflammation from the region.  This eliminates the chemical irritation of the local nerve endings and silences the protective guarding reflexes.  Following Fascial Counterstrain treatment, persons with a diagnosis of Occupational Stress have been observed to have improved mental function, emotional regulation, as well as diminished pain throughout the body, and more.  The observed changes in mental and emotional states include improvements in sleep, mood, and personal relationships.  Persons with Occupational Stress often attribute these changes to a feeling of “release” in the constant reminders of trauma.  While it is possible to experience flashbacks and repressed memories during or after treatment, afterwards, they do not seem as “heavy” and constant in their presence.  Releasing the tissue dysfunction to which these traumas are tied, enables their release as well, and can have a positive impact on healing on both the physical and emotional level, and allows these persons to experience life with less suffering and more capacity for joy. 


“I am amazed at the results I have had from this therapy. The highlights if you will:
  1. I am able to sleep lying down and get 5 or more hours of sleep a night about 80% of the time.
  2. Back pain is reduced to such a low level that I don’t notice is most days.
  3. Lower extremity pain has almost been totally eliminated. 
  4. On most days my headache pain registers about a 4 (of pain scale 0-10)
  5. Treatment has opened a door in my head that has allowed a level of emotional clearing …. The demons still come sometimes, but now they are not as many of them. Now it’s a fair fight.”