By Michell Evans
“Dear Michell, I have been grooming for about 11 years and I went to the doctor the other day. I was telling my doctor about my various ailments. My Doctor said to me, “sounds like you need to find a new profession”, and then he laughed. I was very discouraged by his statement. I love grooming. I want to groom until I retire, but if it is really making me sick I might have to take my doctor’s advice and find a new profession. Is there anything I can do?” — Sunny J.
Hi Sunny, let me start by saying, good for you for taking the time to go to your doctor!
Some of the biggest questions when it comes to our health might be, are the symptoms that we are having normal aging and wear and tear or do we have a recognizable, treatable ailment or injury? If it is a recognizable, treatable ailment or injury, what do we do about it? How do we heal it? How do we manage the pain? How do we keep it from happening again? This is where you should rely on your doctor. Although, unless your doctor gave you some additional useful information, you might want to try a new one.
Self–diagnosis via internet research is not the best way to get your diagnoses. Also keep in mind that if you really do have a work–related injury, you will need a doctor’s diagnosis to make a workman’s compensation claim. I am not a doctor. My advice and information is not a substitute for a doctor.
Because many groomers are commission based employees, it is easy to sell our lives away in one–hour increments. We need to consider our overall health when we manage our time. Try to keep a good work–life balance when scheduling your clients. And if you fail this week, try again next week.
There are all kinds of typical groomer ailments. Just about every part of our musculoskeletal bodies can get fatigued, inflamed and even injured. Every profession has its ailments. Contrary to what you might think, a physically active job, like grooming, is not necessarily more harmful for your body than a sedentary job. How we take care of our bodies is a crucial part of how well our bodies cope and age.
Because I have all kinds of ideas on what a person should do to avoid getting “groomer-body” with no real scientific proof that any of my ideas work, I decided to get much of my information for your question from the Mayo Clinic.
The Mayo Clinic recommends:
• Regular moderate physical activity like daily exercise. Walking, swimming or other activities you enjoy can help you maintain a healthy weight, lower blood pressure and lessen the extent of arterial stiffening due to aging. Ask your doctor if they feel that grooming alone is activity enough or if you should participate in additional activities. Also, weight–bearing exercises, such as walking, jogging, tennis, climbing stairs and strength training can help you build strong bones and slow bone loss due to aging. There is much controversy over whether grooming provides enough cardiovascular activity to meet the Mayo Clinic’s recommendations. Some of us may get enough and others may need additional activity. I find that additional exercise not only helps me keep my weight down but it helps me manage my stress.
• Healthy eating. Choose vegetables, fruits, whole grains, high–fiber foods and lean sources of protein. Limit foods high in saturated fat and sodium. A healthy diet can help you keep your heart and arteries healthy as well as your digestive system. Exercise portion control and stay within a healthy weight range. Many groomers do not stop for lunch. Try to take a few minutes to sit and have a meal or snack. It not only helps your body but your mind too. I have found that eating an anti–inflammatory diet helps me with my overall fatigue and soreness.
• Stop smoking. Smoking contributes to the hardening of your arteries and increases your blood pressure and heart rate. And it may cause cancer. If you smoke or use other tobacco products, ask your doctor to help you quit. Cigarette smoking continues to cause substantial death and disability. More than 1 in 5 adults smoke despite the desire among most smokers to stop and the availability of effective treatments. So many groomers smoke. Please stop. The first day, month and year may be hard but it gets easier with time and time may run out if you don’t stop!
• Avoid alcohol. Don’t drink more than one or two alcoholic drinks a day, depending on your sex and age. A glass of wine might seem like it is the best way to relive stress but some deep breathing or a walk might be a better alternative.
• Avoid stress. Stress can take a toll on your heart and other organs. Take steps to reduce stress—or learn to deal with stress in healthy ways. Exercise is a great way to reduce stress. Taking a short walk can be so helpful after dealing with a difficult dog or client. Also remember to take deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. This was very helpful for me when I stopped smoking.
• Get enough sleep. Quality sleep plays an important role in healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines which can help you deal with stress, fight infections and decrease inflammation in the body. Peoples’ needs vary, but generally aim for 7 to 9 hours a night. Avoiding screen-time before bed and in bed might be the single best tip I have for getting good sleep. Learning something disturbing at bedtime may destroy any chance of a good night’s sleep.
• Protect your hearing. Aging and chronic exposure to loud noises are significant factors that contribute to hearing loss. We simply must wear hearing protection while using forced air dryers! In my opinion, the dogs should have cotton in their ears and happy hoodies too.
• Don’t clench your teeth while you work. Awake bruxism (clenching your teeth while awake) may be due to emotions such as anxiety, stress, anger, frustration or tension. Or it may be a coping strategy or a habit during deep concentration. In some people, bruxism can be frequent and severe enough to lead to jaw disorders, headaches, damaged teeth and other problems. I had to learn to stop doing this when I hand strip. It was causing me headaches.
• Wear a mask. I am going to quote Teri DiMarino here from her July 2011 article in Groomer To Groomer magazine, titled Respiratory Problems. I highly suggest reading it! There is much more information in the article than I have included here.
One study found particulate matter with a diameter of 1 micron or less, which is small enough to be inhaled. The most likely source was carbon brushes. Carbon brushes help conduct electrical current between stationary wires and moving parts, most commonly in a rotating shaft motor like the ones used in many of the high velocity dryers we use every day in our salons. You may see a sample of this carbon residue if you take your finger and run it along the inside of your dryer hose. These dryers that are so important to our businesses, if left unmaintained, are depositing particulate matter into the air similar to having a smoker in the salon.
We are also exposed to zoonotic diseases and particulate matter of all sorts. A mask is a must.
One final note. I have found ice to be an effective anti–inflammatory and pain reliever for muscoskelatol issues. Apply ice packs to the sore areas for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, three to four times a day for several days. To protect your skin, wrap the ice packs in a thin towel. It might help to massage the area with ice for five minutes at a time, two to three times a day.
I hope you have many happy and healthy years of grooming ahead of you. It is important to take care of your body as you age. You start aging as soon as you are born. Take care. ✂