This blog takes me back many years, strolling down memory lane, remembering how far I have come since the days of wearing 3” heels every day to beauty school and standing behind my chair in awkwardness to accommodate my clients. I remember this like it was yesterday when my instructors told me at the tender young age of seventeen that I would one day regret wearing my inappropriate shoes if I continued to do so throughout my career. At that time I was young and invincible and totally living in the moment. I was not thinking about the impact that my shoes would have on my posture or on my future career. I stood in inappropriate shoes all day well into my mid-thirties. That was over 15 years of wear and tear on my body.
And as if the high heel shoes weren’t enough, I often stood behind my chair without a mat. Also, I would bend and maneuver my body in any position necessary rather than ask my client to make an adjustment. If they chose to sit slumped to one side, I would lean to that side. If they wanted to slouch in the chair, I would bend over to keep them comfortable. My body was in an early breakdown but I did not realize the impact all this was having on me. Most stylists make this mistake. We don’t realize the long-term wear and tear on the body of a career hairstylist. So many stylists wear the wrong shoes–even if they are not 3” heels—they are the wrong shoes if they don’t provide the proper support to accommodate a long day of standing behind the chair. In order for you to be ergonomically correct when standing and working, you must start with supportive shoes. This will help position your clients and put the least amount of stress on your joints.
As a result of the many years of not taking the best care of my feet or my body in general, I suffer today with a few conditions that could have been minimized had I known then what I know now. When I turned thirty-five, I started to have problems with my knees. They would ache at the end of a long day, and the only way I found relief was a nightly long, hot bath with Epsom salt. Because of the many years of abuse my body suffered, I have a diagnosis of arthritis which affects my ankles, wrists and knees. I am certainly not suggesting that I would not have developed some form of breakdown over time, however, I should have learned sooner to take better care of my body and to adhere to the precautions that were meant to preserve my body.
Yet I have learned to live with the arthritis and now, tendonitis and osteoporosis, and still be a very active stylist. I can tell you the things I have changed in order to live pain free every day and still work comfortably. It’s been about 12 years now since the original diagnosis, and I have made some important changes to preserve my time in the industry. First of all while doing hair, I only wear shoes that have the proper cushioning and padding. In fact, I don’t even wear shoes that don’t feel like butter on my feet no matter what I’m doing. When I was younger, I would wear any shoes that were cute and on sale; now I invest in quality shoes that exude comfort.
The second thing that has been just as important as the shoes I wear is how my clients sit in my chair and their overall body positioning. I used to be too timid to tell my clients to sit up or sit back so I would just suffer in silence and pay for it later. Also as I learned I would share with fellow stylists the importance of pumping the stylist chair up or down as needed and to not bend over or stretch high to avoid straining their shoulders and back. They would listen to me about as much as I listened to my beauty school instructors. Now I demand that all my work be done from the center of my chair. I purposely work with a mirror directly in front of me so that I can make sure that my client is sitting in the center of my chair and that my body is also centered. This allows me to evenly distribute the strain on my body; and I am not overextending any muscles. All muscles are being evenly used, allowing me to create balance from my feet on up. This may sound unimportant but I assure you it is good advice. Try it and you will be surprised at the ease and comfort the right shoes and body position will have on your body. So do yourself a favor and invest in the proper work shoes, not just flats or slippers, but shoes with proper cushion and padding for long term standing. Sometimes conditions like tendonitis, arthritis, carpal tunnel, and others can be avoided when we take better care of ourselves as early as possible.
Since I did not start early on, I cannot cure my conditions. Nevertheless, I am doing very well with pain management and without any form of medication whatsoever. Below I describe my regimen to live a pain-free life while continuing to maintain a very busy schedule and lifestyle.
PAIN MANAGEMENT ROUTINE:
Traditional Chinese Acupuncture. I have been treated with acupuncture religiously since my original diagnosis in 2006. It has been a godsend as there was a time when my pain was so severe that I could not even hold my curling irons. Every two weeks I faithfully go to my appointment; and it will be a part of my life for as long as I live.
Hot Baths. I take a 20-minute bath just about every day, especially in the winter months. Depending on my workday or week, I use Epsom salt or baking soda to relax my body and muscles.
Workout. I work out at a minimum of 4-5 days a week, using a combination of stretching, strength training, and cardio to keep my bones and body strong and to remain flexible. It is important to stay light on your feet and not put an excessive amount of weight on your legs. Working out and eating healthy will help if you are putting too much stress on your legs and knees.
Heating Pads and Salonspas. In the winter months when my arthritis really flares up, I end my day with a moist therapeutic heating pad after my bath or shower. When I retire to bed, I lay my heating pad on my knees and ankles for a few hours before I am go to sleep. It actually feels so good that sometimes I sleep with my heating pad on most of the night. It has an auto-off feature. After my nightly bath or shower, if I have pain in a specific area, I place my salonspas therapeutic patches on the area. When I wake in the morning, I am generally pain free and feeling refreshed and ready for a brand new day.
If you follow the suggestions I have made, you will not only enjoy your work more, overall your body will be healthier, and the quality of your life will improve.