Salon Hair-Washing May Harm Necks

Trenton, NJ (AP) – Ouch! Leaning your head back over a hair salon sink for a shampoo could cause far more than fleeting discomfort.

Researchers at the New Jersey Medical School in Newark say people with neck problems who frequently visit the beauty parlor risk developing a painful neck condition. They have dubbed it Salon Sink Radiculopathy, or injury to nerve roots going from the spinal cord to extremities. “This is a newly recognized phenomenon,” Dr. Patrick Foye said Tuesday. It is a risk mainly for people with problems such as arthritis or neck injuries from traffic, work or sports accidents.

Other researchers previously have reported people suffering strokes at hair salons when they lean back for a shampoo. Experts recommend padding the sink edge with towels, having your hair washed face down – or washing your hair at home before a visit to the salon.

Pain specialists at the New Jersey school have spotted nearly a dozen patients with the problem since first diagnosing it several months ago.

“I wouldn’t recommend having your hair washed in a beauty salon to anyone,” said one patient, 50-year-old Michael Werner of Bloomfield. He said he suffered so much pain a day after getting his hair washed before a haircut six months ago that he couldn’t move his neck.

Mable Graham, a 60-year-old South Plainfield billing clerk who developed a pinched neck nerve from a computer-related work injury, said one of her twice-a-month beauty parlor visits worsened the problem. “I was amazed to know that just lying in a chair in a beauty parlor could cause these kinds of problems,” she said. “I noticed when I picked my head up out of the sink, the pain was more severe.”

Salon-sink nerve injury generally causes pain radiating from the neck down one or both arms. It is usually treatable with medication and therapy, but surgery may be necessary.

Dr. Faye Chiou-Tan, assistant chief of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, said doctors should warn patients with pinched nerves that leaning their heads back in a hair salon sink can worsen their injuries. “The patients need to advocate for themselves and say, `I’m serious. Don’t put me in this position,”’ she said.

Dr. Andrew Cole, medical director of the Spine Center at Overlake Hospital in Bellevue, Wash., said such nerve-root injuries can occur when the neck is tilted so far back that it further compresses the narrow openings in the spinal cord through which nerves pass.

“Poor posture and computer work is usually the culprit,” said Cole, but he has treated two women for salon-sink injuries.

APO/Salon-Sink-Injuries/Copyright © 1999 The Associated Press