As a hair stylist, barber, esthetician, cosmetologist, makeup artist, massage therapist, tattoo artist, or other beauty or wellness professional, you work with your hands all day. More significantly, though, you engage them in highly repetitive ways and often hold your hands and wrists in somewhat unnatural positions for extended periods throughout the day. While repetitive stress injuries and related soft tissue problems are commonly associated with sports and exercise, certain careers create an increased risk too. For example, people who type on a computer and use a mouse all day are susceptible to carpal tunnel syndrome and developing other chronic hand and finger pain. So too are many types of health, wellness, and beauty professionals. Daily poor alignment of the fingers and wrists compresses the median nerve and can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome and other painful complications. And over time, repetitive motions strain the entire structure of the hands and wrists. Add in frequent use of personal technology devices, and the risk increases. Below is advice about hand care for beauty and wellness workers to help protect your livelihood and minimize the chances of developing chronic discomfort or pain in your upper extremities.
Finger, Hand, and Wrist Stretches to Prevent Repetitive Strain Injuries
- Extend your arms straight out in front of you one at a time with your palm facing away from you and your fingers pointing up; massage the three segments of each finger, then stretch each finger back towards you one at a time and hold it for 20 seconds
- Extend your arms straight out in front of you one at a time with your palm facing away from you and your fingers pointing up; pull all four fingers back towards you and hold for 20 seconds to stretch the underside of your wrist and forearm; flip your arm over, face your palm towards you and make a fist, then pull your fist towards you and hold for 20 seconds to stretch the top of your wrist and forearm
- Extend both arms straight out in front of you with your palms facing the floor and make a light fist; rotate both wrists 10 times in each direction
- Interlock your fingers and stretch your arms out straight in front of you with your palms facing away from you, straighten your elbows, and hold for 20 seconds; then, keeping your fingers interlaced, stretch your arms straight up over your head with your palms facing the ceiling, engage your core muscles to prevent your ribs from sticking out, and hold for 20 seconds
- Open and close light fists 20 times
Hand Care Tips for Beauty and Wellness Workers
- Give your hands breaks throughout the day (real breaks—not breaks where they’re holding a phone and typing text messages)
- Keep your forearms and wrists straight while doing nails, typing, and performing other tasks during which you might hold your hands at an angle
- Use your entire hand, rather than just your fingers, while working, holding objects, opening containers, etc.
- As much as possible, tailor work processes and alternate appointment types to vary the ways your hands are engaged over the course of the day (with the goal being to avoid prolonged periods of highly repetitive motions and positions)
- Apply an ice pack or cold compress to your hands for 10 minutes to prevent or treat swelling
- Wear an over-the-counter wrist splint at night as soon as you start experiencing any tingling, numbness, burning, itching, aches, or other discomfort in your wrist, palm, thumb, or hand
- Use a cooling topical analgesic if you’re experiencing pain and swelling in your hands
- Use NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen or naproxen to treat pain and inflammation