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Salon Stroke

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A California woman suffered a stroke after a beauty salon visit, sparking fears over a rare but documented condition called “Beauty Parlor Stroke Syndrome.”

CLAIM: Getting your hair washed at a beauty salon can, in rare cases, increase the chances of a stroke.

TRUE

We are seeing this all over our professional forums and its got some people pretty freaked out. I have been in the hair business for 27 years and I have never heard of a “beauty parlor stroke”… could you guys check this out and give us some real info?

ORIGIN:In January 2014, a woman in San Diego, California, went to a local salon to get her hair done. What happened next sounds like the most nightmarish of urban legends: the angle and degree she was tilted in the chair and the way her head tipped back over the sink while the stylist was washing her hair caused Elizabeth Smith to have a stroke two weeks later:

“I vomited, my head became hot and I couldn’t stand. I had weakness in my arms and legs. They didn’t think I was going to live,” said Smith, choking back tears.

Smith says she could hardly believe what nearly killed her.

Her doctors pointed to her time in the shampoo chair. Beauty Parlor Stroke Syndrome is what they called it. It’s a rare but documented condition.

Multiple doctors who saw Smith say when her neck was bent backwards, it hyperextended, her vertebrae slicing an artery. A clot began forming, later causing a stroke.

“Several of Ms. Smith’s neurologists confirmed with her that the stroke was caused by the vertebra dissecting her artery during her hair wash,” said Smith’s attorney Carree Nahama.

The danger is real, although the probability of it happening is low. A study that came out in 1993, subsequently covered by the New York Times, found that older people have a higher risk of a stroke during or after a visit to the beauty salon (Smith was in her late 40s at the time):

The patients suffered from a variety of complaints attributable to poor blood flow in arteries leading through the neck to the back of the brain, including severe dizziness, imbalance and facial numbness. Four out of five suffered strokes leading to permanent neurologic damage.

“In older people, neck motion beyond a certain degree can be extremely dangerous, particularly hyperextension and rotation,” said Dr. Weintraub, chief of neurology at Phelps Memorial Hospital in North Tarrytown, N.Y., referring to backward arching and twisting.

He and others have suggested that patients receiving anesthesia or undergoing prolonged dental work may also be vulnerable, since they too have their necks arched back abnormally for prolonged periods.

A 2006 study also looked into the issue, saying while it probably occurred more than previously thought, the risk of stroke in these cases was easily alleviated:

Taken together, hyperextension combined with hanging the head backwards in a hair washbasin can be seen as a risk factor for posterior circulation ischemia. It probably occurs more often than assumed and a number of patients may report about previous dizziness episodes under the same conditions when asked specifically. It can be prevented by changing the shampoo routine from the hanging head position to a flexed or neutral position.

Elizabeth Smith says she racked up $250,000 in medical bills, and is now suing the salon for damages.

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