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Hairdresser/Beauty Therapist/Nail Technician

RSI and non-computer occupations
Though RSI is commonly perceived to be a recent phenomenon, it is certainly not confined to computer users. In fact most industrial and manufacturing activities throughout the ages, which have involved any form of repetitive movement, have had their own overuse syndromes. Soft tissue injuries to muscles, tendons and nerves in the hand, arms, neck and shoulders are known by a variety of names. Tenosynovitis, for example, is a recognised industrial injury for occupations involving frequent or repeated movements of the hand or wrist and in the late 1990s many thousands of miners and gas workers received compensation for Vibration White Finger.
A whole range of popular terms exist to describe musculoskeletal problems associated with particular occupations or tasks; writer's cramp, housemaid's knee, gamekeeper's thumb, tennis elbow and, more recently, pizza-cutter's wrist and Nintendonitis.
RSI and the beauty industry
For hairdressers, actions such as holding up heavy hairdryers and movements of the wrists and fingers while using scissors and hairbrushes, may contribute to RSI conditions. For nail technicians, trigger factors may include hand filing or vibration from electric files. For other therapists, factors may include fine wrist movements and closeup work involved in treatments such as tweezing and electrolysis, hand and wrist movements during massage therapy or repeated bending and twisting over to work with a client on the couch (especially if access to the client is from one side only).
Other risk factors which may be present in the beauty industry include commission working and lack of sick pay which discourages individuals from taking adequate breaks or time off to recover from illness.

If you are already experiencing symptoms, as with anyone who suspects an RSI type condition, the first step is to see a GP. They may prescribe rest and/or anti-inflammatories and painkillers. See the section on treatment for more information.
It will usually also be necessary to change the action or process that is causing the pain.
Awareness of ergonomics is increasing in the beauty industry. However risk assessments are still not standard practice. Depending on the wording of any contracts, those working in salons may be considered employees, in which case salon owners may have a duty of care towards them under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. See the legal section for more information on employers' responsibilities under the Act.
Whether your status is as employee, self-employed, or jobseeker, you should be able to get help from Access To Work through your nearest Job Centre. Their rôle is to help you address barriers to employment caused by an illness, condition or disability - including one that is only apparent in the workplace. They can assess you at your job and make recommendations for any adjustments to equipment or working practices. They can make a substantial contribution to the cost of any adjustments.
Simply buying equipment labelled 'ergonomic' may not help if advice is not sought from a trained professional (e.g. Access To Work or a consultant ergonomist) on equipment to suit each individual.

> RSI and Your Scissors- article on swivel scissors by Sharpline (Australian manufacturer of hairdressing scissors) (External link)
> Beautytech. International internet mutual support and networking group for the beauty industry. (External link)