If you often feel pain in your feet, legs or back, you’re certainly not alone. In fact, around two thirds of hairdressers and grooming professionals experience significant pain in these areas at some point, along with shoulder and neck pain. A study by Loughborough University found that it only takes around 90 minutes of standing before it becomes very uncomfortable. Another study by McGill University in Canada found that it only took 25 minutes of standing for the pain to start.
The pain is more than just annoying, too, as long-term effects include varicose veins, tendinitis and irreversible Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs), a condition affecting around 470,000 workers in the United Kingdom. For example, salon owner Daniel Galvin OBE suffered from back pain so much that it eventually led to spinal surgery.
While it may not be possible to completely irradicate back and leg pains for hairdressers and beauticians, some things can be done to reduce the effects for workers, such as using Anti-Fatigue Mats.
Anti-Fatigue Mats are a type of floor mat specially designed for workers who stand on their feet all day. Popular in factories and warehouses, these floor mats can also be used throughout the beauty industry to increase comfort for workers who stand on their feet for long periods of time. There’s a good chance you’ve already seen or used them, and Richard O’Connor of matting specialists First Mats explains how they work.
“When we walk, our leg muscles help the heart by pumping blood back up into the body using part of the circulatory system called the venous pump.” says Richard, “But when we stand motionless, this process doesn’t happen, meaning the heart has to work harder and allows blood to pool in the lower limbs.”
This leads to feelings of fatigue and discomfort. However, the softer surface of an Anti-Fatigue Mat encourages small movements in the lower leg muscles that help to activate the venous pump and improve blood circulation. The softer mat surface compared to bare floors also relieves pressure on joints, reducing the effects of long-term standing.
The floor mats are also proven to be highly effective, with the Loughborough University study suggesting an 80% reduction in lower leg discomfort and 37% for the lower back. Another study by the University of Michigan found that workers who stood on anti-fatigue mats could reduce the level of fatigue and discomfort by as much as 50%.
If you think that anti-fatigue mats might be an excellent addition to your salon, Richard also offers some advice regarding the types of mats available. Anti-Fatigue Mats are generally made from either foam or rubber. Both can be good options, with foam-based mats being more than adequate for most applications. However, they’re less durable than rubber and incompatible with water and other liquids, so rubber or vinyl-topped anti-fatigue mats will be better in these scenarios.
“Don’t wear high heels when standing on the mats,” states Richard, “It may sound obvious, but it’s worth mentioning as heels won’t give you the stability you need on the mat and can damage its surface.” Other than that, look for mats between 9mm and 15mm in thickness and avoid mats with holes in dry areas, as these will be more difficult to clean.
If mats aren’t suitable for your workspace, there are other tips for reducing pain and discomfort caused by standing. If you can, take regular breaks between standing and sitting, such as using a high stool where possible. Walking is also better than standing still, so walking short distances on breaks keeps you active. Finally, specially designed clothing, such as compression leggings and orthopaedic shoes, can also be worn to help lessen the effects of prolonged standing.
About the Author: Richard O'Connor is the marketing director of First Mats, which specializes in providing floor matting and other safety products for industrial and commerical workplaces. Since its formation in 2017, First Mats has developed a reputation for delivering high-quality products and outstanding customer service.
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