What You Need to Know About “Beauty Parlor Stroke Syndrome”

Washing hair with the neck hyperextended or tilted too
far backwards may lead to stroke, studies show
Don’t let your neck get too tilted backwards when you have your hair washed at a salon sink. If you feel any discomfort or pain on your neck, let the salon attendant know right away.

Funny as it may sound, there is a condition called Beauty Parlor Stroke Syndrome, and the damage it has done to the health and life of people around the world is far from funny. As its name suggests, the condition happens to people who go to the beauty parlor or hair salon to have their hair styled. Oftentimes, hairstyling requires the customer’s hair to be washed at the salon’s shampoo sink – and that is where the fatal health risk occurs.

When people are made to lie down at the wash station with their head extended over a hair wash sink, it often puts too much strain on the neck muscles and nerves. Medical experts reveal that the pressure placed on a hyperextended neck over a wash basin or sink and the combination of hair washing motions can lead to a tear in the vertebral artery, which supplies blood to the brain.

"When one of those cervical arteries is damaged in some sort of way, you can get what's called a dissection, which is damage of the inside of the blood vessel, leading to abnormal flow and clotting, and then those clots can shoot north into the brain and cause a stroke," explained Dr. Steven R. Zeiler, Johns Hopkins Medicine's head of stroke research.

In the Philippines, little is known about Beauty Parlor Stroke Syndrome and hair salons all over the country unknowingly continue the potentially fatal practice of washing customers' hair with their head uncomfortably tilted back over the wash sink. There have been no reported stroke cases among Filipinos that are directly related to patients having their hair washed at beauty parlors, but it's very likely that there were stroke victims who did not know that their previous trip to the hair salon caused severe damage to their health.

In other parts of the world, however, there have been confirmed cases of Beauty Parlor Stroke Syndrome and some patients even filed lawsuits against their hairdressers. 

Tilting your head backwards can cause vertebral artery
dissection from the hyperextension of the neck
Six years ago in England, 45-year-old Dave Tyler sued a well-known hair styling company and won almost $113,000 in damages. Three days had passed after he went to the hair salon to get his hair washed and cut when, on his way to a meeting, he lost sensation on the right side of his body and collapsed. He suffered from a stroke, which was medically proven to have been caused by an injured vein that resulted from a blood clot in his head when his head was bent backwards at the salon's hair wash.

Tyler's case prompted further research on the condition and British newspapers soon reported that Tyler was no isolated case. Earlier this year, a British woman has also been reported to suffer from Beauty Parlor Stroke Syndrome.

The same also happened to 48-year-old Elizabeth Smith from San Diego, California who also sued a hair salon because she suffered from a stroke eight days after she had her hair washed for 10 minutes. Her massive stroke left her with "strength, balance, and vision issues, as well as a brain clot that could kill her if it moves."

To prevent Beauty Parlor Stroke Syndrome, doctors remind people, particularly the elderly, not to tilt their head more than 15 degrees backwards, "especially if they have problems with arthritis in the neck or blood circulation to the brain."

It's also recommended to choose salons with ergonomically designed wash sinks that provide ample neck support to customers having their hair washed. If the head-tilted position is causing discomfort and neck strain, soft pillows and towels or any form of cushion can sometimes relieve the pressure. 

Communication is key. Don't hesitate to tell your salon attendant or hairdresser if you feel uncomfortable with your head tilted backwards. Tell them what you know about Beauty Parlor Stroke Syndrome. Doing so will help spread awareness about the condition and at the same time save you and other customers from its potentially dangerous consequences.

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