Living with Chronic Pain

Dealing with Issues around Showering and Dressing


Many people who suffer from chronic pain often have issues surrounding the tasks of showering and dressing. Pain conditions such as complex regional pain syndrome, fibromyalgia, psoriatic arthritis, multiple sclerosis, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, osteoarthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, spinal stenosis, and various other pain conditions often make showering and dressing a difficult task. Sometimes, the simple task of putting on a pair of socks seems almost impossible.

Many devices are available that assist with the process of getting dressed:

  • Buttonhooks are inserted into a button opening and essentially grab the button and pull it back through. These work wonderfully for those who have pain in their hands.
  • Zipper pulls attach to the zipper making it easier to close.
  • Shoe horns not only assist with putting on a pair of shoes, but they can also extend in length to aid in pulling the shoes toward the body.
  • Sock pullers are an essential tool if putting socks on the feet is a problem. The sock is placed on the sock puller and then can be easily grabbed and pulled up onto the foot. As the sock is pulled onto the foot, the device comes out of the sock.
  • Dressing sticks come in various lengths and help reach clothes, take clothes off hangers, and pull shirts and jackets around the shoulders.
  • Trouser aides help to pull on pants without bending over.
  • Elastic waistbands eliminate the dreaded zipper and button closure.
  • Velcro helps with pant closure, shirt closure, and jacket closure. It also helps to have velcro on shoes instead of laces (elastic laces are available if a favorite pair of shoes require laces).
  • Slip-on shoes also help since the foot simply slides into them.
  • While some people have problems stepping into a bathtub, others say the warm shower water hitting their body feels like boulders are being thrown down upon them. The pressure of the water hitting the nerves increases pain for some while others feel increased nerve pain only after getting out of the shower. Fortunately, for those suffering from pain in the muscles or bones, hot water helps to ease their pain.

    Some tips that help if showering is difficult:

  • A handheld shower wand makes hard-to-reach places easier to cleanse.
  • Sturdy handrails or grab bars help maintain balance and stability.
  • A shower stool or chair is a useful tool if standing is an issue. Also, when suffering from certain types of chronic pain, standing for extended periods of time physically drains the body; utilizing a shower stool or chair helps prevent exhaustion.
  • Bathtub transfer benches have two legs that sit outside the bathtub and two legs that sit inside the bathtub. If lifting the legs is difficult, a bathtub bench helps as the body pivots into the bathtub without having to take big steps.
  • Brief showers are helpful as too much water pressure on the body is painful for some people suffering from chronic pain.
  • Warm water, not hot, is best for those with sensitive skin or fibromyalgia which affects the body's temperature sensitivity.
  • Water should be hot enough for those with painful muscles or bones as heat boosts blood flow which helps with joint stiffness and pain.
  • Skin scrubs should be avoided as the act of scrubbing often increases pain. Also, the ingredients in some scrubs make the skin extra sensitive.
  • Drying gently (rather than vigorously) with a towel prevents increased pain.
  • Cleansing wipes and dry shampoos are good choices to use on days when a shower is simply too difficult.
  • Asking for help from a caretaker is always a good idea. If someone is not able to shower or dress by him or herself, it may be time to place a call to obtain home-health services.

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