Stepping into the Shower with a Chronic Illness

Discussion in 'Fibromyalgia Main Forum' started by JLH, May 18, 2006.

  1. JLH

    JLH New Member

    Stepping into the Shower with Chronic Illness

    (Article written by Susan Watson ,, © 2006)

    Ah, showering. That major task that, for those of us with a chronic illness, ranks right up there on the energy scale with oh, lawncare? Home renovation? Maybe car repairs? Why, I have to schedule personal hygeine days right along with doctor appointment days, grocery shopping days, and all those days which contain that one major endeavor, that spends all our "spoons" in one place.

    Okay, I'm exaggering a tiny bit, but we all know that staying clean and presentable costs us much more in pain and fatigue than our healthy counterparts. It's been years since I've been able to take a relaxing soak in the tub, because I rarely have a crane available to get me out. Therefore, I'm strictly a shower girl. For those of you who can relate to the problems associated with the endurance marathon of taking a shower, I'd like to share some of my adaptations.

    Preparation is key. Be sure to have all necessary items within reach, as you'll have more energy and wits to find them before your shower than afterwards.

    I find some bath items more helpful than others. For instance, using a 2-in-1 shampoo with built-in conditioners saves you a step in hair care and limits the amount of stretching and holding your arms over your head. Some
    of the brands who carry these combination products are Suave, Pantene, and Prell. Your own personal preference will tell you which to choose; however, I prefer the Pantene Pro-V version.

    Using bar soap presents two problems. They are often drying, which causes skin issues for some. In addition, that wet bar of soap can easily slip from your grasp during shower time, causing you to have to bend and reach for it on the tub/shower floor. This can cause muscle strain and even lead to falling in the shower. To prevent these issues, I use liquid soap. I personally prefer the baby baths that contain chamomile and lavender. They are pure and contain essential oils that are meant to calm fussy babies, but they also work to calm a fussy and achey me. You can find these baby bath products in either Johnson & Johnson's form or in the cheaper store brand, located in either the baby items section or in the standard soap aisle. [I personally like the Dove liquid soap! - jlh]

    Fluffy towels are worth the investment, even on a fixed budget. When used to wrap your hair turban-style, the thicker the towel, the shorter time you need to raise your arms to towel-dry your hair yourself. I also find that
    using strategically placed hair bands, barrettes, or other hair clasps during the initial drying time cuts down on styling time.

    You may not think you are "disabled" enough to warrant my best secret weapon in showering: the shower chair. However, even if you walk fine and can stand unaided, a shower chair will lengthen your endurance for a relaxed, comfortable shower. Mine stays in the tub/shower and is the same color as the tub so as not to be an eyesore. Shower chairs can be large or small, and can be bought sturdy enough to hold up to at least 450 pounds. They can be purchased through those health product catalogs we all get in the mail, like Dr. Leonard's catalog (or online at, or they can be purchased at your nearby living aids store. I recommend checking out yard sales and flea markets first to see if you can get one cheaper. The average retail price for basic shower chairs, aka bath benches, is $20-40.

    Another preparation for your best shower is a dual shower head that includes a hand-held shower. This way you can stand under the shower spray for all-over rinsing, train the spray on a particular set of muscles that ache, or you can hold the spray while seated and direct it where you need it. These basic dual heads range in cost from $20-30, and are available from health product catalogs or your local department store. You will more than likely need assistance installing your new shower apparatus. It is simple to do, but requires the ability to stand and hold your arms up for an extended time.

    Another good preparation is to install one or more suction-cup baskets to the wall of your shower which you will be facing. Be sure that the bin you choose has holes in the bottom so water can drain out. Once I am settled on my shower chair, there is a suction-cup plastic bin facing me at seated eye level which holds all my shower items: shampoo, razor, liquid soap, washcloth, etc. This way I do not have to bend or reach or twist my back to reach for items when I need them. And I always know where they are, brain fog or not!

    Once you have all the shower items you will need at hand, it is time to take the plunge. If you have a walk-in shower, so much the better. However, for those of us with tub showers, caution is needed in entering/exiting the
    tub. For many, the most dangerous moment is getting in or out of the shower, and for most, getting out after expending alot of energy is a tenous process. If you use a cane for strength or stability, make use of it when
    climbing in or out of the tub. Regardless of your shower configuration, be sure that you have a non-slip absorbent bathmat outside your tub, and non-slip surfaces on your tub floor, whether adhesive or built-in.

    Once you have settled in your shower, let the warm water melt your muscle cramps away as you rest for a minute, and then carry on, with all the bath paraphernalia you need right at hand. A long-handled bath brush, preferably with a wide handle as well for easy grip, will help in washing those feet that seem, oh, so far away. After you're pink and clean, step carefully out of your shower and wrap yourself in the one thing I missed in my preparation paragraphs: a thick, cozy, terrycloth robe with a hood. Let the robe absorb the water and go take a rest if you need it. Your clothes will always be there when you're up to it!

    You may think that all this is overboard for a few aches and pains, but if you are one of us who has fibromyalgia, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or any of the other chronic illnesses that bring us enduring pain and severe fatigue, conserving our energy in mundane tasks allows us to save more for what really matters in life. Showering was once a task I'd postpone until I couldn't stand myself anymore. Now, with all these adaptations, it is more like a spa treatment where I can relax and feel pampered. With the right preparation, you will too, and your shower time will become less of a chore and more of a luxury!

  2. JLH

    JLH New Member

    I bought a long-handled bath brush at Wal-Mart for about a $1.88! It's great. I don't know what I would do without it! Like she said, there are just some places you can't reach anymore!! LOL

  3. ilovecats94

    ilovecats94 New Member

    I have never liked showers, don't know why. So I take a bath and I don't have much of a problem getting in or getting out. I use a washcloth on the back edge of the tub to pull up on to get out.

    To wash my hair, I just lean over the bathtub and wash it that way later on in the day. I can't do the bath and then my hair, I need to rest between it all. If I can, that is.

    I'd love to have a bar in the bathtub, but we don't. It would make it so much easier for me.

  4. Jordane

    Jordane New Member

    This should be printed and handed out to all the Chronic & Fibro & Arthritis people!!!!:>)

    But its the Gods truth, what we have to go thru to get clean!!

    A LOT of good suggestions on this post. But I think we should add a respirator,because I dont know about all of you,but after my bath/shower.I am totally out of wind.
    Sound like a freight train.:>)

    Wish you all a pain free day!!!!
  5. JLH

    JLH New Member

    I would love to be able to soak in a hot bathtub, however, if I got in the tub, I know that I would never be able to get out! So, I have to take a shower!

    I do use a shower chair (no back on it) to sit on. I sit on it and wash my hair. Unlike you, Faye, I am not able to bend over the bathtub to wash my hair, so I have to do it while in the shower, unfortunately. But holding my arms up that long is a real killer, though. At least I have really short, fine, thin hair and it takes less than 60 seconds to probably wash my hair!! LOL

    My brother recently installed a tall bar on my bathtub that you hold on to while getting in and out of the tub, which has been really helpful.

    My mother has those long security bars installed on the wall of her bathtub and by her toilet--the same setup like they have in the hospitals. I wish that I had those installed in my bathroom. Those are permanent and the type that my brother put on my tub was a heavy-duty clamp-on type that is not permanent--it can be moved if needed.

    The entire process of taking a shower and washing my hair is totally exhausting--just like it appears to be for everyone else, too.

  6. connieaag

    connieaag New Member

    I just saw this advertised on TV last night and thought I would pick up some for my daughter who has FM/CFS. Also, she's 13, the PT at school spoke to her yesterday about "energy conservation" and she mentioned a shower chair, making sure all of her clothes were in drawers that were next to each other so she didn't have to go back and forth across the room to get things, using a half gallon size or smaller of milk so she didn't have to lug around a gallon jug, keeping something to eat -- breakfast bars -- in her room to give her some energy first thing in the morning before showering and getting dressed. Those were the home things she mentioned in addition to the school ones -- two sets of books, two lockers, an elevator pass, etc.
  7. NyroFan

    NyroFan New Member


    I just got my shower chair last week and love it.
    I bought it after a few incidents where I almost feel.

    I can not take a bath because I can not get enough hot water for one.

    I got the shower chair with a back and am so happy about it.

    A very good post!

  8. Cakeart

    Cakeart New Member

    I would like to add what I find works well post shower for hair styling:

    Firstly, I wearmy hair in a simple style. But I need to blowdry it because I take my showers at night, and I need to add volume to it because it has become very thin from my thyroid probelm. So this is what I do:

    I wrap it in a towel to absorb moisture before I get out of tub.

    I use a quick drying leave-in product my hairdresser told me about called Satinware, by Redken. I buy it at a beauty supply store. It replaces conditioner so Ican eliminate that step from the shower, and it conditions, aids styling, and best of all, REDUCES BLOW DRYING TIME IN HALF! (I am not pushing Redken, Satinware is the only product in the line I use).

    Next, I use metal styling brushes that I heat up with the blowdryer, and an IONIC hairdryer which also drys hair faster than regular hairdryers.

    With these tools, My slightly longer than shoulder length hair is dryed and styled in less than three minutes.

    Even though I toss and turn all night, my hair is still plumped and ready to go with a quick brush in the morning because the set in style does not flatten or get misshapen do to the Satinware. It is goooood stuff!
  9. lilaclover30

    lilaclover30 New Member

    At 7:30 p.m. is shower time for me. I too have a shower chair. Towel is laid out near me, nightie is there too as are slippers.

    I know the aggrevation of dropping the bar of Dove soap but I do love it. I use a facial cleanser of my face - it feels sooo good. I take a hot shower too, hot as I can stand and as long as I can stand.

    I can wash my hair with a combination shampoo and conditioner with cooler water. I also push the tub closure shut with me foot to soak my feet and try to take away some of the pain.

    I just towel dry my hair. In the morning, I use Dove Shine on it and I can finger comb through it and it is OK. Luckily, i have wash and wear hair.

    I keep a warm nightie on til it gets hot ---we are not there yet! i also put on my cuddly robe and hunker down in my recliner and read a magazine. It is very relaxing and I may dose a bit before the TV.

    This routine I could not miss!!! Oh yes, I add lotion to arms and legs after the shower.

    Good relaxing!!

  10. carebelle

    carebelle New Member

    This is a really good post for anyone but so helpful for us ,thank you.I use a product from HSN called Shea butter for baths.I have trouble with very dry skin and this helps somewhat.they have different things with several other smells.And products for different things but I always come back to the Shea butter.It helps to clean the tub and doesn't leave a ring around it.Great for shaving legs after you soak a few min.
    This has been the hardest thing to accept ,after I take a bath or shower I have to lay down I am so exhausted .Just the problems while bathing make me realize how this DD has taken so much from me.
  11. libra55

    libra55 New Member

    I can still shower standing up thank God but what I find helpful for me, use the liquid soap instead of bar like someone mentioned (less messy too), also transfer products like shampoo, conditioner, etc. into small bottles. I buy in bulk but cant lift those so I put them in bottles that are manageable for me with my arthritis hands.

    If you get the cheaper washcloths they are easier to wring out. I shave my legs outside the shower (use a step stool) cuz my balance is not good.

    I have everything all layed out before I go in so there is no fumbling around for anything.

    I have to laugh Mable last time I sat in the tub too I almost got stuck there it was scary, so now I limit to showers. I would love a hot bath. There is a tub advertised on TV where you walk in and close the door, I also saw in some magazines too.

  12. JLH

    JLH New Member

    Nyrofan - Hi, dear, how are you doing?

    I'm so happy that you got you a shower chair and love it!! Since you had a few incidents where you almost fell, I think it was a good investment.

    I am really enjoying reading everyone else's hints and habits on showering. We can learn so much for each other!!

    cakeart: where do you find an "ionic" hair dryer? My hair is so short, thin, and fine, that I bet it would be dry in the time I found the "off" button after I turned it on!!! LOL

    My hair is thinning so badly and the fact that I have to sleep with a CPAP mask with the headgear straps around my head, when I take it off in the morning, my hair is pressed flat against my head. I just hate that part of the CPAP use!

    Regarding shaving legs, I do not have the stamina to shave them while in the shower. I used to shave them before I got in the shower - just by propping my leg up on the side of the tub while I could hold on to my sink vanity for balance. This practice has now been retired, too! LOL

    ilovecats94 (Faye) suggested to me once that I get a woman's electic shaver and told me what type she used. I got me one a Wal-Mart and now have to sit on my bed and shave them. It can be used with or without a cord and where you don't need any shaving cream or gel, you can shave them anywhere! I am so thankful to Faye for putting that idea in my head!!!

  13. mcgee

    mcgee New Member

    This is such a great post. It's HUGE concern that no one ever discusses. The fact that it's so BASIC and so hard, that it (among lots of other things) makes me crazy. At my worst, I would get out of the shower and lay on the bathroom floor (cold tile!) to muster the energy to put on clothes or walk to the bed. Temperature extremes really make me sick so a bath is just too much and blowdrying or not blowdrying (cold wet hair makes my throat worse) both caused problems. Showering was an accomplishment that I didn't always make everyday.

    The best thing I did was chop off all my long hair into a pixie cut. It was actually pretty liberating to have some element of control over my body. (i actually cut it myself over several days, one advantage to being housebound, and now several squirrels have great nest-lining) It saves so much time washing, and it dries itself. I'm not quite sure I have the bone structure, but CFS has pretty much forced me not give a crap what other people think. On that note, I've also returned to my hippie college ways of not shaving my legs. There's always pants. And I'm no longer missing showers or laying on the floor (for now anyway).

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