A California woman is suing a hair salon on the basis that getting her hair shampooed there led to her stroke two weeks later. Elizabeth Smith claims her neck was “hyper-extended” during a shampoo at the Blowbunny: Blow Dry & Hair Extension bar in December 2013. Eight days later, she felt weakness in her arms and legs, along with other odd symptoms that disappeared, according to KGTV San Diego. A week after that, Smith suffered a massive stroke.
“I vomited, my head became hot and I couldn’t stand,” she told KGTV. “I had weakness in my arms and legs. They didn’t think I was going to live.”
Her doctors blamed her shampoo chair. According to a doctor’s report sent to ABC News by Smith’s attorneys, clinicians found signs Smith had an artery dissection in her vertebrae, meaning the artery wall had been slightly broken. The injury is capable of leading to a clot, and if that clot breaks and travels to the brain, it can cause a stroke. Neurologists refer to this rare series of events beginning in a shampoo chair as Beauty Parlor Stroke Syndrome.
The salon, in court paperwork filed earlier this month, denied any negligence and says Smith “failed to exercise any degree of care for her own safety and as a result proximately caused her own injuries.”
Stroke is the leading cause of long-term, serious disability in the United States. Almost three-quarters of all strokes occur in people over the age of 65, and the risk of having one more than doubles each decade after reaching 55. Smith was 48 when her stroke occurred.
Dr. Warren Selman, director of the Neurological Institute at University Hospitals Case Medical Center was not involved in the case, but explained to ABC that a doctor will usually ask a stroke patient if they fell, went on a roller coaster, or did anything else that could have caused a hyper-extended neck. Beauty Parlor Strokes, he said, are definitely something neurologists are aware of.
“Actually calling it a ‘Beauty Parlor Stroke’ is relatively common in the teaching; it’s been reported quite a lot,” Selman said. He added that tipping the head back and experiencing numbness, tingling, or slurred speech can be a warning sign of injury.
Some salons have switched over to reclining shampoo chairs to alleviate neck stress, and experts say that those with hardened arteries or neck arthritis may be able to wash in a face down position.