Leaning back and getting your hair washed at the salon is uber-relaxing. Except, of course, when it’s causing a STROKE.
A few days ago, we here at The Stir told you about a 48-year-old California woman who went to a salon to get her hair done. Two weeks later, she suddenly found she could no longer move her left arm or even walk.
Most of us wouldn’t see a connection. But the woman’s neurologists sure as hell did. Leaning backwards over a hard surface, as you do when you’re shampooed at a wash basin, puts serious pressure at the base of your head.
It’s a real thing, this “Beauty Parlor Stroke Syndrome,” aka “Salon Syndrome.” That few minutes of pressure can lead to an obstruction, or total blockage, of blood to your brain. Since it doesn’t happen immediately, but takes time, it’s an easy diagnosis to miss.
The good news: Salon strokes are very rare, says Dr. Clifford Segil, DO, a neurologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. “I have never seen a patient who had a stroke from having their head hyper-extended from a shampoo at a beauty parlor,” he says.
But it does happen. And because of that, Dr. Segil says he’s grateful that the issue is suddenly in the spotlight. “It happens incredibly infrequently, but all you have to be is unlucky,” he says.
Despite our tendency to frequent salons far more than our XY counterparts do, women aren’t necessarily more at risk than men, says Dr. Segil. But people who are more vulnerable are those with high blood pressure or diabetes, and those who smoke.
More from The Stir: What a Stroke at Age 28 Looks Like
So what can you do to stay safe? Because now that you know this, we’re guessing relaxing over that wash basin isn’t going to be as easy as it was last month.
There are two crucial safety measures EVERYONE should take at the salon, Dr. Segil says. And if your stylist doesn’t do both automatically, speak up and request them:
1. Cushion your neck. Make sure something soft — like a towel, duh — is between your neck and the wash basin, suggests Dr. Segil. This minimizes the pressure at the back of your head.
2. Don’t let your stylist dry your hair over the basin. You know how some stylists towel-dry your hair while you’re still over the basin and in that hyper-extended pose? Nope. Not safe. Instead, advises Dr. Segil, “sit up and lean forward, so no one’s pushing on the back of your head.”
There. Don’t you feel better? Now go off and genuinely enjoy your cut and blowout. And we’ll, um, wait until you get back to tell you how the most common neck traumas happen at the (gulp) chiropractor.
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