Eugene, OR

The Two New Kinds of Post-Covid Pain and What You Can Do About It

Julia Hubbel, Walkabout Saga, Horizon Huntress

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If you're in the aesthetics business, your work could be a real pain right now.

If you waited, like I did, for the restrictions to be pulled back before you got a hair cut, you're not alone. I can do that; my hair is long and braided. That said it was still a mess, and when I went into SuperCuts on Commerce Street right off West 11th, it felt like a small miracle to have someone else wash my hair and cut off all the split ends.

Most of us, even on days when you and I walk into a no-appointment salon on a Saturday and take a seat to wait, rarely consider those folks who take care of us. We barely even register that there might only be two of them working and twenty of us waiting.

A great many of those professionals are in terrible pain right now, and they didn't see it coming.

Advanced Chiropractic is seeing nearly double the patient loads on some days, and it's largely folks who are doing hair, barber and other aestheic work as well as long-overdue body care. These folks often stand with their shoulders hunched forward, the upper back muscles tensed, and their heads forward. The best form for our normal posture is that we stand straight up, our heads properly balanced as if held up by a string from the ceiling.

Nobody I know sits that way or works that way. That's why so many people need adjustments.That includes me, of course, although I try hard to correct that posture, for as a writer I can curl into a "C" shape with the best of them. Hours later I can hardly walk, which means I need someone like my chiropractor to bend over me while doing adjustments. By day's end, he's sore, too, if for no other reason than his workload nearly doubled.

Kevin Plummer, D.C. told me that he used to have fifty patients on the best day ever, and now that's more than eighty. The majority of them are new patients, and they are also heavily in the hair care and salon industries. They also have seen a massive uptick in work.

As people have emerged from quarantine, they also need updates. Hair, face, skin, shaves, you name it. The facilities are packed all day long, and the employees aren't getting much of a break. Their incomes, perhaps, but their bodies are paying the price. They've been telling Kevin why.

"Where they might get a 30-45 minute wait between clients before Covid, now they sit someone else down as soon as they're done. All day long with barely a break," Kevin said. "There's no rest between clients and they stand like that for eight to ten hours. By the time they come to me they have terrible headaches and their muscles are in knots."

The physics are rough. Our heads weigh, on average, about 10-11 pounds. When we stretch our heads forward, all kinds of muscles are put under stress, with complications throughout the upper body. This article goes into more detail about what happens when we put so much strain on our necks:

https://www.spine-health.com/conditions/neck-pain/forward-head-postures-effect-neck-muscles

My buddy Melissa, who is a Thai masseuse, is finding precisely the same thing, but with an additional twist. Her practice has expanded exponentially, and with it, the demand on her to talk six or seven hours a day. Melissa's a quiet, introspective person to begin with. The last year she's been even more quiet, so the sudden demand that she deliver body work as well as entertaining conversation to people who desperately need it has drained her emotionally as well as physically.

The first time this happened I called her, and she simply couldn't talk at all. She needed 24 hours simply to rest her brain, much less her jaw muscles.

Plummer, who like me, is talkative, has also found that the intense, pent-up demand for human interaction has been draining. So not only are these caregivers' bodies being strained by the constant demand to care for other people's hair, chins, faces, etcetera, emotionally they're drained because so many of us are incredibly hungry for interaction. We need each other, sure, but we can also tend to suck the energy right out of each other if we're not careful.

We are painfully lonely, which is understandable, but we may not understand the effect this has on those who are taking care of us.

That need for conversation is hardly limited to patrons. I've been guilty of it myself when I hijack folks walking their dogs in front of my house. The lack of interaction for nearly a year was difficult. My neighbors were both kind and patient, and now we all know each other as we feel more free to mingle.

In particular, if your job involves a lot of standing, hunching over and your head tends to drop forward as you concentrate, while you might very much value the sudden uptick in business, you may not at all appreciate the sudden uptick in pain, a different kind of emotional stress from people's need for your attention, and simple exhaustion.

Plummer recommends that you schedule a few minutes between customers, if you possibly can. As with all service industries, if you're irritable you may do damage- not just in not doing your very best work, but also in being unfriendly or angry for sheer need of a break. Your customers can likely wait another five minutes while you find a quiet spot to do some stretching, as outlined above.

It can be ever so tempting to leap back into full work activity for so many reasons, not the least of which is the need to replenish the bottom line. However as with exercise, the demands on our bodies if we're in the caregiving space can lead to injury. Here are some ideas on how you might manage your re-entry into the work zone, particularly if you're feeling the strain of a demanding workload in the care business.

First, see if you can plan a regular massage. I have done this by finding massage schools.

This is a list of massage schools in Eugene:

https://www.massagetherapylicense.org/massage-therapy-schools/eugene-massage-school/

Sometimes those schools offer reduced prices for clients, which allows the students practical application work before certification. For those in the aesthetics business, this might be a good investment in your health and welfare at least once a week. Combing a massage with adjustments as well as planning in some rest time to stretch out between patrons will go a long way towards helping you manage your own body even as you help others manage their beauty.

Second, if there is anywhere at your work space to do this,such as a break room, get a yoga pad and use it to hit the floor for some well-deserved stretches. Get some advice from your caregiver as to the specific ones you need for relief. Just two to five minutes an hour could make a huge difference.

Third, give yourself some air time. Even if it's to walk up and down the block for a few minutes between clients, give your poor overworked brain a rest. I could suggest that you negotiate some quiet space with your clients, but I wouldn't do that with someone I didn't know. Repeat business often depends on that relationship, and the relationship takes investment.

Fourth, invest in a heating pad. Any Walgreen's or Rite Aid or Fred Meyer can offer you a selection, but for these purposes, I like the C-shaped pads you can drape around your neck and over your shoulders. Most have a magnet set in the front which keeps it on your shoulders. Just a few minutes like this of warmth, then stretching, can be incredibly restful as well as invigorating. This is a list of heating pads which include some upper body types, which might be of particular value if you can work with it plugged in. This may sound silly, unless you work in a cold enviroment like a medical office and you hunch up because you're cold. Obviously the cord will confine your movements but for some it might just work.,

While there are plenty of available options for muscle creams, my personal favorite is something called 1-TDC Cream. It's available through multiple outlets.

A small roll pillow placed under your back on the yoga mat can help with lower back strain, says Plummer.

Melissa, whose Thai massage sessions are fully 90 minutes of real physical effort, takes regular breaks Now, she is starting to restrict how many clients she takes a day in order to allow her to ramp up more slowly. Of course she needs the money, but like all of us, she needs her health more.

How you manage the new demands on your body as you work on other's bodies is up to you. Plummer emphasizes, as this is what he does for himself, that the regular breaks will help release the tense muscles. The heat, walks, relaxation and stretches can help mitigate the muscle tension. As for those talkative clients?

Well. If you can get away with it, earbuds can help. Otherwise a turn around the block can be refreshing, as right now the spring air is a lot more welcoming to us all, like the bright yellow poppies on all the city blocks around Eugene.

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Eugene, OR
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