Overuse injuries from the repetitive motion of grooming is a pain almost all groomers feel in their career. Taking steps to minimize this stress could reduce injuries and make your work more enjoyable.
The first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one. OSHA has workplace guidelines for employee health to help prevent overuse injuries. Although few people like someone looking over their shoulders, you can benefit from the significant research they have done to find solutions.
Although it is not an extensive list, here are 10 easy steps you can take to evaluate the changes you can make to minimize your overuse risk. Make these new habits your “spring cleaning.”
1. Examine your body motion through the different grooming tasks.
Try to catch yourself adjusting your body instead of your equipment or over-reaching. This will strain your joints and pull focus from the pet. Consider adjustments you can make to put yourself in a better position.
2. Look for ways to take stress off your lower back.
Keeping your grooming work at counter height (or where your hands and arms can work WITHOUT bending or twisting your lower back) is what you need. If you are shorter or taller than average, you will need a table that will adjust to you. Otherwise, you will be bending your lower back and causing potentially damaging strain.
3. Think of ways equipment or the dog can do the work.
Lifting dogs, even heavy ones, is a habit most groomers get into. Although it can save a little time, think about the bending and lifting stress. If you have a walk-up option for bathing and grooming, then the dog gets the confidence building of choice and you save the twisting and turning of lifting. You can use the time the pet travels to the table to mentally review your grooming plan.
4. Consider where you are wasting motion.
The biggest motion-waster is reaching or searching for equipment. Find a caddy or shelf where you can safely stage your tools. Your tools and your body will thank you. When it is time to purchase a new table, consider a larger size or a model with storage built in.
5. Try a pain or stress diary to identify when you feel overuse.
Joints and lower-back injuries or aggravation are the primary grooming overuse injuries. See if you can examine patterns for your pain. When you start to see a pattern—maybe elbow strain when you move from grooming a small dog to a larger dog—you can start to try some modifications. For example, adjusting the table height when moving to the larger dog. The best grooming height and location is where you can groom safely and pain-free.
6. Get real with the physical “cost” of cheap or inadequate equipment or procedures.
Chances are you became a groomer because your inner artist loved to make dogs and cats beautiful. Focus on that and invest in the highest quality equipment that allows you to groom efficiently without pain.
7. Positioning, positioning and adjust positioning.
The main difference between a basic grooming table and a premium table is the ability to have the table adjust. The same is true for tubs. For example, the Elite Grooming Tub allows you to set the floor at the bottom of the tub for medium and large dogs or on top for smaller pets. This protects your lower back. The more the equipment works for you, the less stress your body will undergo. That’s why professional athletes spend so much time on fundamental positioning. Think of yourself as a grooming athlete and invest in what helps you do what you love.
8. Remember a safe place to set tools down during grooming.
Think about when accidents do happen. It likely is when something falls off the table. Both equipment and the pet are at risk. If this is an ongoing issue for you, solve it.
9. Don’t let pride keep you from investing in mechanical “help.”
There is a certain pride, especially in younger groomers, that they can physically handle anything—and the symphony of bobbing and weaving around the table is a joy. OSHA calls overuse injuries a problem for a reason. It can take years to see the damage you are doing. Listen to your body, and don’t let your pride keep you from implementing mechanical help, like lifts or a rear grooming arm. The goal is to groom pain-free for your work lifetime. It is a marathon, not a sprint.
10. Pamper yourself.
You are your business’s greatest asset. You are the star player. If you go down with an injury, it really hurts the team. So, take care of yourself and invest the time and money to keep you grooming pain-free. That’s why Shor-Line builds premium options into its product line.