health

An image that captures the difficult reality of being a hairdresser has quickly gone viral.

If you thought hairdressing was a glamorous or even ‘easy’ job, think again.

Aside from long hours, working weekends and the constant exposure to chemicals, standing in the awkward position of leaning over a client for eight hours a day doesn’t come without its health consequences.

The biggest one? Severe back pain and strained, off balance muscles.

hairdresser
Image: iStock.

"It is quite common with anyone working where there is a repetitive posture such as hairdressers, dentists and anyone working with machine or equipment," Osteopath Michael Mulholland told Mamamia.

"The static load posture creates some imbalance in the muscles and we get a resulting postural strain and often resulting discomfort that if unattended can be quite painful and even restrict mobility".

A picture is currently going viral on Facebook showcasing exactly that and it's already been shared almost 16,000 times.

Hitash Patel shared two images of a client who had undergone Gua Sha, a traditional Chinese treatment that Gwyneth Paltrow and Elle Macpherson are reportedly fans of, in order to reset her muscles.

"The joys of being a hairdresser! Because you're spending hours standing on your feet rotated forward, whilst holding brush in one hand and a hairdryer in the other angle over your clients head for hours and hours," Patel wrote.

"Your muscles develop and stop holding your skeletal system in an unnatural off central position. So then when you finally do you put down your crimping equipment. And try and sit down and a natural neutral position it just doesn't work."

Gua Sha is used to treat muscle pain and decreased range of motion and involves scraping the skin with a smooth-edged instrument to stimulate the microcirculation of the soft tissue which in turn increases blood flow.

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Julia Kosin of Harper's Bazaar described it as "I wouldn't call it painful, but it was definitely intense, and I don't think it's a treatment that everyone will enjoy". The result is bruised and red skin that looks worse than it is.

While it's certainly an option on offer for anyone suffering from similar pain, Mulholland says it's only a small minority that opt for Gua Sha as treatment.

The most common route would be to go to a GP who would refer you to an osteopath or physio.

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Image: Facebook
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"There are lots of traditional method that are aimed to create inflammation in that area because part of the bodies natural response to inflammation is to bring blood and elements in blood that create tissue repair, because circulation has been diminished," he explains.

The idea is to get symmetry back into the body by strengthening and stretching.

"Hairdressers are bent forwards about 40-60 degree angle for hours on end. The muscles in their front haven't been used but their back muscles are used to literally stop the hairdresser falling on the client," he says.

"So the muscles in the back get over tight and the muscles on the front get underused.

Whatever the treatment, whether chinese medicine or osteopathy, the aim is to mobilise the muscles.

"Whichever one, we need to back up with some active strategy. Often the missing piece of puzzle - whether it's massage, stretch, acupuncture or whatever - anything on their own is a relatively short term effect, it's very important need to follow up with active strategy and patient education," he says.

Image: iStock

While hairdressers certainly face their own set of health risks with their job, there's a universal lesson.

"The job isn't the problem - there's no job that's ergonomically sound or stress free. We've got to take charge and do the appropriate lifestyle changes," Mullholland says.

For a hairdresser, that would ideally mean stretching before work, doing exercise (whether that's a walk, bike ride or swim) before or after work and taking breaks in between work.

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