(This is a version of an excerpt from an article published in the Healthy Hairdresser section published in the August 2014 issue of MODERN SALON.)
Your legs are swollen, your wrist is inflamed and your back is begging you to curl up on a sofa. Who knew that doing hair would break the body?
After more than 20 years of standing on her feet doing hair, Rowena Yeager was sinking fast.
“I have scoliosis,” explains Yeager, the owner of Studio Wish Salon in Twinsburg, OH. “About five years ago I realized that if I could end up in a wheelchair if I didn’t start doing something to support my spine and back.”
A track star in high school, Yeager reconnected with running, improved her diet and lost 30 pounds. Then she discovered CrossFit, a tightly structured program that blends aerobic exercise, gymnastics and weightlifting built upon a group framework that’s both cooperative and competitive. When she started out, Yeager couldn’t catch her breath for a short run. Today, she runs half-marathons, hits the CrossFit gym five days a week and works at the salon pretty much pain-free.
“I’d been so focused on my salon that I wasn’t taking care of me,” she says, adding that she’s not surprised to have met other local hairdressers through CrossFit. “But if I don’t take care of me, I can’t take care of anyone else.”
Glenn and MaryAnn Guerriero
Glenn and MaryAnn Guerriero already had been putting in long hours behind the chair for years leading up to 2003, when they launched their own salon, Brooklyn Attitude Hair & Body in Saratoga Springs, NY. In the 11 years since then, the workload has not eased up.
“Thankfully, from the opening of our doors we have always been a very busy salon,” Glenn Guerriero says. “But it has taken a toll.”
Now in their 50s, the Guerrieros have experienced the typical aches and pains that plague hairdressers. Glenn’s sore left shoulder, leg fatigue, troubled knees and stinging back have all been alleviated by a heavily used gym membership. However, MaryAnn has had a knee replacement and surgery for carpal tunnel and a bulging disc in the neck. She may soon be facing hip surgery as well.
If you’re nodding in empathy, it’s because Glenn and MaryAnn Guerriero unfortunately represent their profession. Brand new research conducted by MODERN SALON through the Healthy Hairdresser initiative reveals that a worrisome percentage of hairdresser respondents are currently experiencing mobility limitations: 45 percent report back or neck problems, 37 percent have sore legs or feet and about 15 percent are suffering from varicose veins, with a matching figure struggling with carpal tunnel issues.
Prevention Is Key
Don’t wait for the pain to start. Establish good habits, and maybe you’ll be able to avoid mobility problems for an entire career in hairdressing. Alternative Integrated Medicated Services (AIMS) in East Brunswick, NY, recommends:
*Maintain proper posture. That means not bending over to shampoo or apply product. Keep your weight evenly distributed between your left and right sides. There’s a right way and a wrong way to bend, push, pull and lift.
*Choose exercises and stretches that help you to develop strong core muscles.
*Consider using an adjustable stool or hydraulic chair; or, at least, position yourself so that your arms work at chest height.
*Stand on an anti-fatigue mat.
*Vary your position and take frequent breaks.
*Keep scissors sharp to help guard against tendonitis of the thumb or forearm; try the latest ergonomic scissors.
*Wear non-restricting clothes and supportive shoes. Consider using orthotics and compression stockings.
*Try wearing a support for the wrist and hand.
More than half the respondents to our Healthy Hairdresser survey identified mobility issues as directly impacted by salon work; 72 percent tied back and neck problems to their career. If you love doing hair, take preventive measures early to ensure that you’ll be able to continue in your profession for a long, long time.
In next week’s Healthy Hairdresser eletter, learn six tips for people who stand all day.