How To Prevent Repetitive Strain Injuries By Choosing The Right Shears

November 10, 2023

If you're a hairdresser, you already know it's essential to have the right tools for the job. And if you're looking to prevent repetitive strain injuries, one of the most important tools in your arsenal is your shears. 

But, with so many options out there, it can be hard to know what to look for. This guide will help you prevent injuries and confidently choose the right shears for you.

What Is Repetitive Strain Injury?

Experiencing tingling or numbness in your fingers? Burning pain in your wrist? A reduction in your grip strength? You could be suffering from a repetitive strain injury, or RSI. And it can interfere with going through your daily motions at work.

RSI is a term used to describe several conditions – including tennis elbow, tendinosis, and carpal tunnel syndrome – caused by repeated physical movement.

As hairdressers, RSI typically affects us in the form of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). It's a painful hand and wrist condition that occurs when there's increased pressure on the median nerve in your wrist.

Research shows that the frequency of CTS is higher for female hairdressers than it is for non-hairdressers. But it's not all bad news! Because, in most cases, CTS is treatable. And better yet, you can take steps to prevent it.

Avoid Injury With Ergonomic Shears

Using ergonomic shears is one of the best ways to prevent CTS. They allow you to move comfortably and enjoy career longevity (and, of course, deliver flawless cuts!). So, let's talk ergonomics. When you're shopping for shears, you'll see four types of handles:

  • Classic handles: With classic shears, the handles are stacked symmetrically. Although they can produce great results, they're also known to cause CTS with prolonged use.
  • Offset handles: Offset shears feature one handle that is longer than the other. They feel more natural than classic shears and are a great option for reducing the risk of CTS.
  • Crane handles: This style is similar to the offset handle, but the downward angle allows you to lower your elbow and alleviate pressure on your joints.
  • Swivel handles: Designed with RSI in mind, swivel shears allow you to customize your thumb placement for maximum comfort. 

The handle that you choose comes down to personal preference. Most hairdressers concerned about CTS choose an offset, crane, or swivel style.

How To Choose The Ideal Pair

The right shears can help you make magic. But they’re not one-size-fits-all. Before you buy just any pair – or snag the pair your coworker swears by – ask yourself these questions:

Are they the right weight for me?Too light – you won't be able to cut through some hair textures. Too heavy – you'll put unnecessary strain on your wrist. It’s a classic Goldilocks dilemma of finding the one that’s “just right.” With your clients' hair texture in mind, choose lighter weight shears to reduce your discomfort.

Are they made for my dominant hand?If you're a leftie, opt forleft-handed hairdressing scissors.

Are they the right length for me? Most shears are between 4.5 and 8 inches. As a general rule of thumb, you can measure the length of the blade against your middle finger to find shears that will work for you.      

What styles am I cutting most often?Choosing the wrong shears for your services could cause your cuts to take longer, resulting in extra stress on your wrist. Give yourself options when you opt for aprofessional hairdressing scissor set.

Am I using my shears correctly?Using more than one finger to open and close your shears can cause unnecessary strain. When you're using shears, only your thumb should move. The main idea? Choose shears that feel comfortable and natural.

What Else Can You Do To Avoid Injury? 

Armed with yournew shears, you're ready to defend yourself against CTS. But it doesn't stop there! 

Protect yourself even further by:

  • Taking regular breaks. Allow yourself to rest between clients, and try not to perform repetitive tasks when you're off-duty. 
  • Using your non-dominant hand. You don't have to be ambidextrous – start small by using your non-dominant hand to mix colour or comb your clients’ hair. 
  • Investing in quality styling tools. A good blowdryer can reduce the amount of time you spend drying your clients' hair. And that means your wrist will spend less time under tension. Win-win! 

Cut Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Before It Strikes 

Hairdressers worldwide are at risk of repetitive strain injuries, like carpal tunnel syndrome, due to the repetitive motions the job demands. But ergonomic shears can help you prevent injuries and enjoy a long career. 

When you're buying shears, always consider the handle, weight, and length, as well as the styles and textures you typically cut. With the right kind of shear in hand, you can stop worrying about CTS and let your hair down. 

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