Oh, My Aching... | Groomer to Groomer

Oh, My Aching…

I love grooming, it is like breathing to me! I need to be around it. I first started my career in a corporate store. Upon my arrival, one of the first requirements was to review their policy and procedure or, “P&P.”

There were a lot of great things in there that spoke about breaks, rest and safety. Unfortunately, not many people (including the managers) followed it at all…unless there was an issue, and the “Big Wigs” came in to enforce the law.

I guess you can say that was the foundation that helped me understand a lot of things about safety—not only for the animals in our care—but for myself and the entire grooming staff. Many groomers that start out now may not have been that fortunate, and it could catch up with them in the long run. For instance, one of the safety features was about proper footwear. Proper footwear was considered to be gym shoes. Flip flops, sandals, Crocs or open–backed shoes were not allowed. Primarily because it was unsafe for the work environment. 

Now that I am mobile, I am my own boss! I can wear whatever the heck I want; nobody is the boss of me…except my aching feet. I don’t wear flip flops while grooming simply because I don’t like them. Anyone who knows me, knows that I have a thing about standing in hair. And, if you are clumsy like me, somewhere in the course of the day, you would end up shish–kabobing your big toe with a pair of ten–inch shears. 

I also suffer with low arches. I need support! When I learned to groom, I learned standing up. I cannot groom sitting down. When it was time to change my shoes, I would know it. Not only would my feet ache, but I would begin to feel it in my ankles, knees and back. I got into the habit of changing my shoes every three to six months. 

Working in a busy salon, I was always on the go. Although everything seemed fine, I failed to notice the wear and tear I was placing on my body. Even though I was standing on an anti–fatigue mat, my feet were taking a pounding balancing the weight of 100+ pounds all day, five to six days a week. I was younger then and I didn’t pay attention to the warning signs. After a good cold Pepsi and a long soak in a hot bath, I was ready to get back into the ring again. 

As the clock started ticking through the years, I was putting more and more mileage on my chassis—and it was starting to catch up to me. One morning I woke up, swung my feet out of bed and had some back stiffness. No biggie! I thought that I had just slept the wrong way. But the real problem happened when I tried to get out of bed. As I stood up, I felt a searing, hot pain in my right heel that radiated like a lightning strike to my hip. Before I could react, I crumbled to the floor. I think I may have blacked out, because my memory was a little foggy for a moment. 

Feeling a bit woozy, I attempted to get to my feet again and I felt this hot, radiating pain near the small of my back. Getting to my feet was not going to happen, so I crawled to the bathroom and pulled myself up using the sink. Holding on for dear life, I attempted to place my foot on the floor—not happening! The heel of my foot was so sore that I couldn’t even flex it. 

I eased myself down on the porcelain goddess and tried to figure out what just happened. Had I been sleepwalking barefoot through a gravel pit? Was it that cat dream again where I jumped from the second floor? Did I really do it this time? Did someone spike my Pepsi? The answer to all of those questions was “no.”

Any reasonable person would think that I headed right to the doctor to figure out what was going on, right? No! I hate doctors. They always want to cut something or give you pills, and all I could picture was my grandparents’ medicine cabinet that looked like a pharmacy. I wanted nothing to do with it. But, the pain didn’t get better; it got worse. The back pain got to the point that I couldn’t sleep comfortably and getting out of bed in the morning became navigating a slide down the bedspread to the floor so that I could crawl to the bathroom. This went on for months. 

Being the salon manager, I had to be at work, and most times I had a heavy workload plus students to train. So, I made myself go until my body just said “no!” I struggled through a busy Saturday and made an appointment to see my doctor on Monday. 

I had plantar fasciitis. And to compensate for the pain in my heel, I was placing my weight on the ball of my foot. The imbalance had thrown my hips and lower spine out of line. The first thing my doctor mentioned was surgery. After I gave him a good long dose of the “stink eye,” he recommended that I see a chiropractor—which I agreed to. 

When I saw the chiropractor, the first thing he said was, “I don’t understand how you are walking!” He showed me my x–rays which revealed my lower spine was twisted and my left hip was lower than the right side. It took him almost a year to put me back together again. He also recommended a podiatrist that prescribed custom orthotics to support my heel and arch as well as a good walking shoe. In addition, he told me to roll a golf ball under my feet, concentrating on the arch and heel. It helps to relieve the pressure. The first time I tried it, it hurt like you could never believe. But after some conditioning, it became far more comfortable. Now I look forward to my golf ball reflexology! 

The moral of this story is, take care of the most important piece of equipment that you have…your body! When you are younger you have a tendency to take it for granted, but as you start racking up the miles, it will catch up to you. 

In our line of work, the daily wear and tear can not only end your career early, it can ruin your health. Take the necessary time to stretch, rest, hydrate, eat healthy, exercise and realign your body. It will thank you in the end! ✂️

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