The Oscars 2022 might be infamous for the unscripted slap incident but most importantly, the event shone a light on Jada Pinkett Smith’s condition – Alopecia Areata. It sparked awareness among millions of people all around the world about this common autoimmune condition that results in unpredictable hair loss.
Alopecia is a broad term that refers to any form of hair loss and it can have many different causes. For men, their age and resulting changes in hormones known as androgens could lead to scalp hair loss. And for women, it can be caused by something as simple as tying up the hair tight for too long. Also, alopecia areata not only affects people of any particular age group and can arise in childhood, adolescence, or even adulthood. Individuals who have this condition tend to lose hair in clumps, causing round bald spots.
What Causes Alopecia Areata?
The actual causes of alopecia areata are still not well identified as it is quite complex to understand. There could be a combination of several factors that could influence this hair loss disorder, including transformations in different genes that are in charge of different functions like making proteins in the hair and skin as well as in the immune system. This is why alopecia areata is one of a large group of immune system diseases classified as autoimmune disorders.
For certain reasons that are still unclear, when a person suffers from alopecia areata, the immune system targets their hair follicles, which results in stopping hair growth. However, the condition does not permanently damage the follicles, which is why hair may later regrow but the time varies for different individuals and could range from weeks to years.
Some genetic deviations related to alopecia areata have been identified in individuals with other autoimmune disorders, which implies that this disease might share some genetic risk factors. Individuals with alopecia are prone to developing other autoimmune disorders as well. Some of the other conditions include:
- Systemic lupus erythematosus
- Atopic dermatitis
- Allergic asthma
- Autoimmune thyroid diseases
In several cases, it is still unknown what initiates hair loss in individuals suffering from alopecia areata. It is also probable that different environmental aspects, including emotional stress, illness, or even physical injury could prompt an unnatural immune response in people who are at risk. Nevertheless, the influence of hair loss has no specific or clear explanation in most affected people.
Can Physiotherapy Treat Alopecia Areata?
There is a range of treatments for Alopecia Areata, but some of these treatments will not be effective for everyone and some people with alopecia might not even respond to any treatment. Because some of the advanced available treatments have a significant risk of side effects, they are not often leveraged to treat younger children as well.
Although there are no proven, specific physiotherapy treatments for Alopecia Areata, various studies have shown that physiotherapy is actually helpful in healthy hair growth.
Physiotherapy treatment for hair growth is completely non-invasive which means there will be no cuts, no wounds, no stitches, no medications, and no side effects.
Physiotherapy in Hair Growth
1. Getting your blood pumping encourages hair growth
Physiotherapy exercises are a great way to pump blood to your scalp which can significantly influence hair growth. Also, exercises that make you sweat are really good options because as you sweat, it opens up the pores in your scalp and helps to flush out all the toxins that are harmful to the hair.
Physical therapists will prepare custom physiotherapy exercises based on an individual, their daily routine, or work. Everything from jogging to neck exercises and even upside down exercises are believed to significantly improve blood circulation. As the blood flow increases in these areas with physiotherapy, the enhanced blood flow works to boost hair growth and fights any damage caused to the hair.
2. Reduced cortisol levels reduce hair loss
As mentioned initially, alopecia areata can be caused by an imbalance in hormone levels that results in unpredictable hair loss. This is why it is imperative to understand how hormones and hair loss are connected and how to regulate the effects to grow healthier hair. Cortisol is one such steroid hormone that is known to affect the function and cyclic regulation of the hair follicle. Anxiety boosts the level of the hormone cortisol in your body, which can cause fluctuations in other hormone levels and can speed up the balding process because when cortisol levels are high, it suppresses your immune system. By ramping up your cardio with physiotherapy exercises and workouts, you can significantly help lower your cortisol levels—and, by extension, reduce your hair loss.
3. Physiotherapy exercise for reducing stress
We have all heard it several times before that long-term, or chronic, stress puts people at risk for hair thinning and hair loss. Though not certain, it is believed that Alopecia areata is a stress-induced hair loss that involves a white blood cell attack on the hair follicles. But the best part is that stress is environmentally caused and may be more easily controlled if the stress can be managed. Physical therapists can help manage stress with the addition of certain physiotherapy exercises that can correct muscle imbalance, improve strength and reduce pain which can all otherwise be causes of stress.
Also, good sleep can contribute to stress reduction and physical therapy exercises including relaxation techniques, posture training, and patient education on optimal sleep positions have been shown to improve both sleep quality and sleep duration. The exercises suggested by experts doing physiotherapy in Richmond Hill are proven to tremendously improve several physical conditions, as well as posture and self-esteem, leading to a better quality of life, all of which together can promote mental health and well-being.
4. Scalp massage contributes to hair growth
Besides easing stress and tension, it is also believed that physiotherapy massages for the scalp are capable of promoting hair growth. Unlike the body massage, a scalp massage should be done by a specialized physical therapist because it is usually done a little more gently. This massage significantly improves blood circulation and contributes to the lengthening of the hair growth.
Though the results may not be immediately visible, it may take up to 24 weeks or more to help increase hair thickness and growth. According to recent research, scalp massage is considered to increase hair thickness by elongating the cells of hair follicles. This can influence the follicles to produce thicker hair. It is also believed that a scalp massage may help dilate blood vessels underneath the skin, help in better blood circulation, and thereby encourage hair growth.
Although research is limited, there is scientific evidence that promises physical therapy or exercises can significantly promote hair growth. Physiotherapy exercise can help hair grow because it increases blood flow and circulation throughout the body. Therefore, an increase in blood circulation also signifies that additional nutrients and oxygen are reaching the scalp.
But similar to any other disease, before undertaking treatment or medications for alopecia areata, always make sure to initially follow up with a specialized doctor. Because overdoing exercises and the additional stress could sometimes adversely affect hair growth and therefore rather than helping in better growth it could lead to hair loss.
Cindy Williams is a blogger in Canada. She graduated with honors from the University of British Columbia with a dual degree in Business Administration and Creative Writing.