One Woman Is Suing Her Salon After A "Beauty Parlor Stroke"

Photo: Getty Images.
Getting your hair washed at the salon is among life's greatest pleasures — but could it be dangerous? The story of a California woman arguing as much has gone viral, after she filed a lawsuit through attorneys saying a rough shampoo job led to a stroke two weeks later, ABC News reports.

Elizabeth Smith claims that the chair and shampoo bowl were defective, and that her neck was hyper-extended, which caused a cut in her vertebral artery, according to court documents obtained by ABC News. (An email to the salon in question was not immediately returned, but KGTV in San Diego, as well as ABC News, reported that the salon owner disputes all claims.)

“I had weakness in my left arm and leg,” Smith, 48, told Buzzfeed. “I just didn’t feel right. I was standing up to point, and I couldn’t stand. But by the time the paramedics had arrived, my symptoms had resolved.” Another six days passed before her symptoms progressed to nausea and vomiting and she went to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with a stroke, she says.

As scary (and crazy) as this sounds, it turns out this isn't unheard of. Experts know this phenomenon as Beauty Parlor Stroke Syndrome, which can happen if your neck is hyper-extended and damage to arteries occurs during a shampoo sesh. In fact, Warren Selman, MD, Director of the Neurological Institute at University Hospitals Case Medical Center, told ABC News that any time your neck is hyper-extended this is possible, which is why doctors ask patients with stroke symptoms in the ER if they've fallen or been on a roller coaster recently.

The good news: The condition is rare, though it's hard to quantify, according to a 2006 case report from the journal Cerebrovascular Diseases. The phenomenon was first reported in 1993 in a study that included just five case reports. And although there isn't much research on the topic, from the case reports it does seem that the condition is more likely to affect older people, and those with atherosclerosis (or hardening of the arteries). As the authors of the 2006 report write, "It can be prevented by changing the shampoo routine from the hanging head position to a flexed or neutral position."

If you ever feel uncomfortable during a wash, speak up and change positions. But also know that this is not a reason to skip that luxurious trip to the salon.

More from Body


R29 Original Series