When you think of occupations that take their toll on the body, you might think of manual labour type jobs such as builders, plumbers and electricians first and you would be forgiven for not necessarily considering hairdressing to be up there.

However, studies have shown that 71% of hairdressers suffer work related injuries with almost every part of the body being at risk. The most prevalent problem is back pain with around two thirds of hairdressers experiencing this at some point, closely followed by neck and shoulder related problems. This is hardly surprising given that hairdressers are on their feet most of the day with their arms out, performing repetitive and intricate tasks.

Further problems for the feet, veins, knees and back can be caused by prolonged standing on those trendy but hard concrete floors and bending over to shampoo, whilst emotionally taking on all the clients stresses throughout the day, can all contribute to aches, pains and restrictions manifesting themselves in the body.

Typical Conditions

Here are some commonly diagnosed conditions attributed to hairdressing:

  • Locked joints in the neck or spine
  • Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Muscle / joint tightening and strain
  • Varicose veins
  • Trapped nerves
  • Tennis elbow
  • Tendinitis
  • Stress
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Postural Fatigue
  • Cramp

How Can I Help Myself?

While you may love being a hairdresser it can definitely take its toll on the body. Thankfully there are so many simple steps that can be taken to minimise the damage. Here are 22 of them for you to try getting into your day:

  1. Get to work early so that you are calm and relaxed before you start
  2. Use a rubber, anti-fatigue mat for cushioning
  3. Take a seat on your break – saddle chair stools can be good at evenly distributing your weight and reducing the stress on the legs
  4. Keep moving to adjust your position whilst standing
  5. Maintain your centre of gravity in the midline to prevent too much weight going through one leg
  6. Wear supportive, lace-up, non-slip shoes and avoid heels
  7. Try insoles or orthotics if suffering with foot pain
  8. Either bend your knees with your feet apart and keep the back straight whilst shampooing or stand with one foot in front of the other, bending at the hips and knees with the back straight
  9. Stand closer to the client to avoid excess bending
  10. Adjust the clients chair height so that you don’t have to bend
  11. Keep your elbows tucked into your sides where possible to avoid muscular strain
  12. Stretch your neck, arms and back between clients
  13. Exercise and watch your diet, the more you weigh, the more stress being put through the body
  14. Keep well hydrated
  15. Breathe deeply to improve the oxygen supply to the muscles
  16. Avoid smoking as this has been linked to muscle and joint pains
  17. Keep your ears over your shoulders
  18. Use a mirror to keep an eye on your posture
  19. Use a good quality and sharp pair of swivel-scissors to reduce the amount of force going through your hands
  20. Keep the wrists straight and avoid twisting them at awkward angles
  21. Keep your arms and shoulders as relaxed as possible, shaking them off every so often
  22. Practice stress busting techniques such as meditation

Finally, the moral of the story is that whilst there are a number of potential hazards to the profession, you shouldn’t let it put you off as there are plenty of ways of protecting yourself from injury.

For a little extra help in looking after your body, many find that regular manual therapy, such as osteopathic treatment, useful to address certain problems, reduce stiffness, maintain joint function, mobility, range of motion and to alleviate the pain.