Long before you feel numbness or tingling in your fingers and forearm, carpal tunnel syndrome may be in its early stages. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a nerve damage condition common to barbers and hairdressers who cause stress to their hands when they cut with their wrists and thumbs in an unnatural position. The traditional even handle shears cause the hairdresser to bring their thumb and ring finger together each time they close their shears. This is an unnatural position that is one of the leading causes of barbers and hairdressers developing CTS. If the cutting is done in a “thumb up” position, the wrist as well as the thumb are bent in a way that causes the tendons to rub over the wrist bones. This is potentially harmful, especially if the shears are dull or inexpensive and bend, pull or push hair as they cut.
Cutting with even handle shears in a “thumb up” position forces the wrist and thumb to bend in such a way that can cause CTS. The thumb and ring finger are brought together in an awkward position each time the shears are closed. The shoulder and elbow are elevated which can translate into lower back pain and ankle pain as the body tries to balance itself.
Offset handles (photo 2) combined with a smooth action solve many of the problems associated with traditional shears. One handle is longer than the other and the thumb now opposes the middle or index finger. This puts the thumb in a straight line with the arm and lowers the arm and shoulder when in a “palm to palm” or “thumb down” cutting position.
Offset handles put the thumb in a straighter line with the arm and lowers the arm and shoulder when in a “palm to palm” or “thumb down” cutting position. This reduces stress on the wrist and thumb.
However, if offset shears are used in a “thumb up” position the thumb and wrist are again bent awkwardly and the shoulder and elbow are raised.
When offset shears are used in a “thumb up” position the thumb and wrist bend and the shoulder and elbow are raised. This causes stress on the wrist and thumb. Offset shears are designed to be used in a “thumb down” position.
A new alternative to the traditional and offset shears is the twister thumb or swivel thumb shears. These shears, designed like offset handle shears, offer additional comfort with a thumb hole that rotates in a 360º circle. This allows the thumb to stay in line with the arm whether cutting with the hand in the “thumb down” or “thumb up” position. With the thumb in this position there is less bend in the wrist and the shoulder and elbow are lower. A good shear should provide additional protection from nerve damage with its smooth action that cushions the jarring shock of closing the blades. The unique “Tip” was developed for multi-cultural and coarser African hair. It prevents pushing the hair at the tip thus reducing the number of times the blades are opened and closed during a haircut.
The rotating thumb hole allows the thumb to stay in line with the arm whether cutting with the hand in the “thumb down” or “thumb up” position.
Anyone can develop CTS although it is more common in women, especially pregnant women and those who are overweight. If you are feeling the first symptoms of nerve damage with tingling or numbness try switching to more ergonomic handle shears. Hand stretches and exercise can also help as well as B complex vitamins with ample B6, vitamin C and vitamin E. If these measures fail to bring relief, visit your doctor. The best choice, however, is to practice these measures before CTS starts.