Where are my hair stylists and DIY stylists?! Get in here! I appreciate and admire you all for constantly blessing us with amazing, flawless, creative styles. Which is why I have to say what I am about to say. Sis, did you know that just as you take care of your and other people’s hair, you have to take care of those hands as well?
Those hands, especially the muscles, nerves, and bones that make it up are doing a lot of work, and depending on how often and how much time you spend twisting, or weaving, or crocheting, or blowdrying, or even sewing down wefts, you need to have the ‘C’ word at the back of your mind. I am talking about Carpal Tunnel today.
What is Carpal Tunnel?
According to WebMD, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a numbness or weakness of the hand that is caused when there is pressure on the median nerve at the wrist. The median nerve is responsible for the feeling and movement of all your fingers except your baby finger (or pinky). So whenever you make any movements that involve your first 4 fingers, you are engaging that nerve.
What happens in Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is that for a number of reasons, the tunnel around the wrist that this median nerve passes through, gets swollen. When it gets swollen, then there is too much pressure on the nerve and so it does not do what it is meant to do – which is provide sensation to your fingers. When this happens, people tend to feel some burning, tingling, numbness, or even pain in the affected hand.
Carpal Tunnel syndrome is treatable, but also preventable. If you spend hours in a day or week making repetitive movements with your hands and fingers to complete a style (or even just typing at a keyboard or scrolling through your phone), you need to remember to care for that hand.
In addition to taking breaks periodically from making hair, do the following regularly to keep your hand healthy and in check:
1. Don’t grip hair or extensions too hard
I once went to a masterclass for braided hair styling that was taught by Rare Essence Academy and one of the things that she said contributes to their signature neat braids is the grip on the hair and extensions. Ironically, she warned not to grip too tight (which was so different from what the madam in the hair shop I learnt to braid at when I was 16 had taught me. There, I was taught to hold on to the hair as tight as I can).
Softening your touch also softens the pressure that all that muscle contraction places on your wrist. In softening your touch, you are not only giving your hand a break but also blessing your scalp or the scalp of the person in your chair. When you focus on your technique, you will find that there is no need to apply so much energy into braiding or twisting.
2. Adopt good braiding posture
Good braiding posture helps with softening your grip and also reducing the pressure on your wrist. The best posture to reduce the strain on your wrist is to situate your hands in such a way that you are reaching up to the hair, with enough distance for your arms to be stretched.
By standing close to the head, there is not enough length for my arms to extend. This posture is okay to adopt at the start of the braid but allow yourself to move further away from the head so as to give your hands room to relax as you braid.
If sitting, hands should not be at the same level as the head. Doing this still causes pressure on the wrist and that is what we are trying to avoid.
Sitting at a lower height will allow the hands to work upwards, there by giving room for you to be close to the head without applying too much pressure on the wrist. I find that this posture is perfect and causes no pain. The difficulty is that the stylist needs to be able to move around the head and so standing is more desirable for most stylists.
If you are not able to adopt the sitting position at the perfect height, then make sure to have a dose on the next point at least once a day.
3. Exercise your Hand
If you do yoga, then you already have some great resources to help with hand exercising. But you don’t need elaborate yoga exercises to stretch your hand. You can do these simple stretches:
Roll your fist in a ball and face the fist downward…
And then release the fist and fan your fingers outwards and backwards for maximum stretch
Roll your hand into a fist again but this time, facing upwards…
Release hand downwards and fan out fingers, outwards and downwards to stretch the wrist.
Repeat each one 10 times in a day and you should be good to go.
And that’s it! We wouldn’t want you to forfeit that hobby of doing your hair yourself or lose the ability to work with your hands, would we? So please be aware of the health of your hands as you use them repeatedly in creating gorgeous styles.
Do you have any other tips for exercising or massaging your hands to keep them healthy?