Getting a head wash at a beauty parlour or a hair salon can be very relaxing and set you up for a great hair day. However, if not careful, people can experience discomfort from the hard basin against their neck which could lead to a stroke!
Narrating the ordeal of a 50-year-old who suffered from ‘beauty parlour stroke syndrome’ – or vertebrobasilar insufficiency – after her visit to a salon, Dr Sudhir Kumar, senior consultant neurologist, Apollo Hospital, Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad, said tilting the back of the neck over a basin can tear an artery, leading to blood clots and strokes.
2. Symptoms did not improve, the next day she developed mild imbalance while walking. She was referred for my opinion. She had mild right cerebellar signs. MRI brain revealed infarct in right posterior inferior cerebellar territory, MR angiogram showed left vertebral hypoplasia— Dr Sudhir Kumar MD DM🇮🇳 (@hyderabaddoctor) October 30, 2022
According to Dr Kumar, the woman showed dizziness, nausea and vomiting symptoms, “which started during her hair wash with shampoo in a beauty parlour”.
The Hyderabad Woman’s Case
The doctor said that woman was “initially taken to a gastroenterologist, who treated her symptomatically”. However, the expert noted that her symptoms did not improve, and the next day woman developed a mild imbalance while walking.
“She was referred for my opinion. She had mild right cerebellar signs. MRI brain revealed infarct in right posterior inferior cerebellar territory, MR angiogram showed left vertebral hypoplasia," he said.
The woman was then diagnosed with having the “beauty parlour stroke syndrome" involving right PICA (Posterior inferior cerebellar artery) infarct territory. “A possible mechanism is kinking of the vertebral artery during hyperextension and turning of the neck towards the wash basin while washing hair with shampoo. She had well-controlled hypertension too,” the doctor added.
What is Beauty Parlour Stroke Syndrome?
The term beauty parlour syndrome was coined by Dr Michael Weintraub in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1993 after five women developed “serious neurological symptoms following shampoos at hair salons”, according to a report by The Guardian.
As per the report, the syndrome or vertebrobasilar insufficiency can occur in “extremely rare” cases when tilting the back of the neck over a basin can tear the artery, leading to blood clots and strokes. The symptoms included severe dizziness, loss of balance and facial numbness. The body part which is under the control of the brain part that does not get oxygen also suffers damage. Four out of five people suffered strokes, the report added.
As per a report by Time Of India, similar cases are common among men who opt for a neck massage at salons.
However, Dr Kumar noted that stroke affecting vertebro-basilar artery territory can occur during shampoo hair-wash in a beauty parlour, especially in women with other atherosclerotic risk factors and undetected vertebral hypoplasia. “Prompt recognition and treatment can prevent disability," he added.
Should we stop getting head wash at the parlour?
In an interview to Self Magazine, Aneesh Singhal, M.D., associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and vice chair of Neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital noted that this type of stroke can also happen to people when they’re at the dentist, playing tennis, undergoing chiropractic neck manipulation, and even doing yoga.
He explained the risk of such a stroke can be minimized without swearing off salon shampooing forever. “Avoid activities where the neck would be malpositioned for a long period of time—more than 10 or 15 minutes, but it could be even less,” he said.
According to Clifford Segil, D.O., a neurologist at California’s Providence Saint John’s Health Center, making sure your neck is supported when people are having hair washes and asking a salon employee to pad the area where the neck will be positioned over the wash basin with a towel can also prevent such strokes.
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