Beauty Parlor Stroke Syndrome

From the beginning of time, men and women have gone to great lengths to attain an attractive physical appearance. Spa treatments for beauty and relaxation are indulgences that can feel as good as taking a mini vacation.

But did you ever think that the pursuit of beauty and pampering could cause a stroke? While reports of stroke resulting from salon and spa techniques are by no means common, there have been enough strokes caused by professional beauty treatments over the years to warrant the familiar name ‘beauty parlor stroke syndrome’ in the medical community.

Here are ways that various forms of personal pampering have been connected to strokes.

Woman getting her hair washed
 Rayman / Getty Images

Hair Styling

There have been reports of patients who have experienced a stroke after professional hair styling. A research study published in the American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation attempted to unravel the cause of beauty parlor stroke syndrome.

The study assessed 25 volunteers who reported dizziness after salon hair styling. The results suggest that dizziness is due to decreased blood flow to the brain caused by neck extension during the shampoo part of the hair service. Customers who were provided with cervical neck support during the shampoo experienced less dizziness.

Additionally, there were measurable decreases in blood flow through the carotid artery (the main artery on each side of the neck that leads to the brain) without cervical neck support during the shampoo, but no measurable decreases in blood flow with the use of cervical neck support. It is possible that the vertebral artery (located at the back of the neck) is minimally affected as well.

Facial Massage

Rare reports of stroke after a facial massage suggest that traumatic pressure during the massage can produce tearing or blood clots of the blood vessels that supply the brain.

Handheld Massager

The use of an at-home self-administered moving handheld electronic massager has been responsible for at least one case report of stroke. As with facial massage, this was due to traumatic injury to the blood vessels of the neck. This pressure from the electric massager can cause a tear in the blood vessels at the front or back of the neck.

Neck and Shoulder Massage

Shoulder or neck massage can also cause a stroke due to physical trauma to the blood vessels located in the neck, or even the blood vessels located in the front of the chest. Rarely, the extreme pressure can cause blood clots to form or break loose, which may then travel to the brain and lodge in the blood vessels of the brain. 

Massage and relaxation methods, including acupressure, shiatsu, manipulation, reflexology, chiropractic treatment, and other techniques should be performed by a trained, experienced professional. Massage techniques should avoid blood vessel landmarks.

For at-home massage, it is important to avoid heavy physical pressure, and to focus the massage on the skeletal muscles, avoiding the neck and areas near the eye.

Fortunately, all of these problems are infrequent. However, when it comes to beauty and pampering, it is important to be aware of these uncommon, but nevertheless possible complications and to take the necessary steps to avoid them.

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