Updated: Jan 12, 2019
Nick Headley is a man of many talents. He serves our city as a firefighter while serving many clients from professional athletes to everyday athletes as a Fascial Stretch Therapist and Owner of Queen City Stretch. I’ve personally benefited from Nick’s Fascial Stretch Therapy after a prolonged knee injury. I’m pumped to get to share his story with you all.
What brought you to Charlotte?
We moved here five years ago when I was hired by the Charlotte Fire Department. My wife has family in Charlotte and has always loved it here. Initially, I wasn’t interested in coming here because I loved where we lived in Phoenix, but as I went through the hiring process with Charlotte, I quickly grew to love the city and I’m really happy to be here.
What made you stay?
I really like that we’ve found communities of friendly and genuine people. From the Fire Department to our church to our CrossFit gyms, we felt really fortunate to have some amazing friends. I also like how Charlotte is a mix of small town and big city. There is a lot of opportunity but it’s still small and intimate.
What made you be a firefighter?
It’s the coolest job in the world. I love the physical aspect and the team atmosphere. I like helping people. Although I don’t want anyone’s property to start on fire, if it does, I want to be working. It might sound weird, but fighting fire is fun. And there’s a lot of different aspects to the job; things we’re responsible for knowing and being able to do. So there’s a lot of variety to the job. It feels great to know that people call us when they’re not doing well and we get to help make things better.
What’s your best firefighter story?
On most calls, our time with the patient and/or homeowner is very limited and we don’t get to see how things end up. One night a guy came by the station to talk. Turns out we had come to his house when he had a heart attack. He wasn’t breathing and had no pulse. In medical terms, he was dead. We performed CPR like we’re trained to do and now he’s standing in our station having a conversation with us. That’s crazy and awesome.
I have to ask… Have you ever gotten called to get a cat out of tree?
(Nick laughs) Nope. I’ve actually only heard of that happening one time.
So, Nick you also own and operate Queen City Stretch. What is that?
It’s a fascial stretch therapy company I started last December. I had worked in sports medicine clinics for a few years prior and that helped set the table for me. Queen City Stretch provides my clients with a lot of flexibility and allows me to provide for my family outside of the fire department.
What is Fascial Stretch Therapy?
It’s a deep stretch that’s both relaxing and painless. It’s a form of assisted stretching which has become pretty popular recently. Some companies are starting to take advantage of the market by offering assisted stretching but they’re not offering Fascial Stretch Therapy.
Check out this facial stretch story!
How is yours different?
For one thing, FST is designed to be painless. So when I take someone into a deep stretch, they’re still comfortable. Many of my clients get so relaxed during their session that they almost fall asleep. It’s also beneficial for more than just performance and recovery. To put it simply, fascia is connected to our nervous system in a way that makes it very powerful. Whether someone has an inflammatory response to their environment or even traumatic events in their past, FST can actually release that stress to allow the body to heal. If that sounds crazy, that’s OK. I had a hard time believing it at first, but I’ve seen the proof in my own clients.
What’s the fascia?
You can think of it in two different ways. It’s like a net that covers your body. It’s also like a spider web that connects everything to each other. If that is tight, you can stretch the muscles all you want but the whole thing has to move as a unit. So, I stretch it all to provide the best results for each client.
It’s also extremely sensitive to pain. Obviously, it’s possible for me to stretch someone so far that they feel pain. But my process is slow and gentle so that I can feel when my client feels the stretch and I can gauge how far to go and when I need to stop. For most of my clients, my goal is to go as deep as possible into the stretch without them feeling uncomfortable. For others, it’s about calming down their nervous system so the stretch is even more gentle. If I would go too far, the fascia tightens up to protect itself from further pain, stress, and trauma. So a painful stretch really isn’t an option. Women who are pregnant are also a great example of the stretch being more about relaxing than about getting a deep stretch because their body is already becoming more elastic because it’s preparing to give birth. So I don’t want to test their flexibility or mobility limits.
Who needs this?
My clients range from office workers to hairstylists. Photographers. Professional athletes. Student athletes. Stay-at-home parents. Doctors. Retirees who golf or play tennis multiple times per week. And my fellow firefighters are seeing the benefits too.
As cliché as it might sound, everyone can benefit from it. But, it’s not necessarily for everyone. Just like there are workouts out there that can benefit everyone not everyone is going to like it. I love CrossFit and have been doing it for several years. I would encourage anyone to do it because it’s scalable for any fitness and/or mobility level. But the reality is not everyone will enjoy doing it. The same goes for FST and any other therapy. But I do think everyone should try it.
How does one benefit from it? What is the best way / attitude to come into your first session to get the benefit?
So most of my clients come to me when they have tried their primary care doctor, chiropractors, physical therapists, and massage therapists. They may have tried cupping, dry needling, acupuncture, and more. They are coming to me as a last resort. Then there’s people who were referred to me. I enjoy both types because it’s cool to see their reaction to their first session. There’s usually a healthy amount of disbelief and skepticism coming into it and then shock afterwards.
For their first session, I ask about medical history, injuries, surgeries, and things like that. I also want to know what causes pain, if anything. I want to know about any movements that they can’t do because of pain or tightness. Basically, I want to know about anything that stops them from living the life they want to live.
I might do some movement screenings. Maybe a squat or some push-ups to see your mobility and strength. At that point I explain to the person what I’m going to do – the difference between other therapies vs. what I do.
If you’ve had FST with someone else before, I’ll explain how I do FST. Just like most other professionals, we may do very similar things but the way we do it might vary a lot.
So, what’s a success story from FST?
I had a female client who complained of pain after doing handstand push ups. She said she had pain right after and for the next few days. I understood but I kept asking questions and actually learned that several years prior she had been playing soccer and had experienced a really hard hit to her head. Basically, she probably had a concussion that was never diagnosed or treated properly. Fast forward more than a decade and she’s still struggling with the pain and restrictions from it.
I worked gently with her neck and shoulders, even doing some pec work. After that one session, she had no pain for a week after living 10 years with constant gnawing pain. After another session, she had no more pain and hasn’t needed another session. Ten years of pain is gone in two sessions. I don’t care who you are, that’s pretty cool.
I have other stories like that but not everyone has that experience either, but it always opens your eyes to see what you don’t have to live with. People live with a lot of discomfort every day. It either progresses to a level that disrupts their life or they just finally get sick of it.
The recovery aspect is also huge. For instance, you can be sleeping better. I had one mom say after her session that she hadn’t slept that good since before she had kids! Several other clients have said they had amazing sleep after their sessions.
What made you get into this?
I’ve had a bad back since high school and I had always been to chiros and PTs because of pain and really limited movement. In 2008, I was working construction when the economy tanked and I lost my job. I decided to pursue the fire department but it’s super competitive. You can have 5000 applicants show up for a test and they might only hire 10. While I was pursuing the fire department, I fell into a job assisting the chiropractor and physical therapist where I was a patient.
After moving to Charlotte for the Fire Department, I hurt my back again and ended up needing to have surgery. I worked with a chiropractor and physical therapist for rehab. Through the process of working with the chiropractor, I told him about my past work experience in Phoenix and asked if he could use me. I started working there the following week.
That was in October of 2016. My job was to stretch the patients, show them corrective exercises, and do some manual therapy. After being there for a few months the chiropractor approached me with the idea of FST. I had no idea what FST was, so I did a lot of research – looked into the courses – decided it would be a great investment for me to make. After passing the course, my schedule was booked with people who wanted to try it out and those who had already tried it and loved it.
I loved being at the clinic, but my fire department schedule made it really difficult to stay at the clinic so, in December 2017, I decided to go out on my own and started Queen City Stretch.
So, you’re nine months in – how are things?
Awesome! I have over 150 clients and room for more. The beauty is that most of the clients I have, I see them five times or less. This isn’t something that has to be ongoing if you don’t want it to be. Most people come to me with an issue they want to take care of, whether it’s tightness or pain. Although I do have clients who I see weekly, monthly, and quarterly because they like it or because they want to maintain what we’ve accomplished together.
Because of my experience with tons of physical therapy and chiropractic appointments for my back, I work really hard to get results right away for my clients. If I’m not making a difference for them or I don’t think I can help them, I tell them that and give them a referral to my network of medical professionals in Charlotte to help them get the care I believe they need. I’ve only had a handful of people who I didn’t think I could help, but they really appreciated me being upfront with them about it. I do get a lot of referrals from clients I only saw one or two times so I know it doesn’t have to be something where I see them several times to make a drastic difference.
How can people find you?
Instagram is the easiest way @queencitystretch
Alright, it’s time for my standard questions that give our readers a look into other fun things about you. So, what’s your favorite…
Sports team: Nebraska Huskers Football
TV show: Hard Knocks
Movie: Top Gun
Place to work out: Rising CrossFit Ballantyne
New thing in CLT: SweatNet
Old thing in CLT: Freedom Park
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