Showering With Ankylosing Spondylitis
Last updated: January 2023
One of the things I struggle most with due to ankylosing spondylitis and fibromyalgia is taking a shower. What used to be a refreshing and calming part of my daily routine, now fills me with anxiety, pain, and exhaustion. So I thought I’d share some shower tips that help me.
A lot of my pain starts in my lower back and SI joints and radiates to my neck and to my feet. Basically, I’ve got pain everywhere. This makes standing for more like 5 minutes very difficult. Sometimes I have trouble standing even while relying on my cane. This makes standing in the shower impossible. To combat this I got a shower chair. I got a height adjustable one that is easy to assemble and clean. Sitting on a chair to shower definitely takes some getting used to, but it has reduced the pain in my legs and exhaustion I used to feel when showering.
AS also really limits my mobility
When I keep up with my physiotherapy exercises, I am able to move around with more ease and less pain. However, even then, I am limited in how flexible my spine and pelvis are. This can make washing yourself difficult. For instance, washing any part of my back is very painful and there are spots I can’t reach at all. A long handled loofah or brush can help with this. I bought a loofah with a plastic handle attached to it which helps me get all the areas of my back that I was unable to wash before. This has greatly reduced pain and has prevented me pulling muscles in an effort to wash a hard to reach spot.
Washing my hair is another thing I struggle with
I experience a lot of joint pain and tenderness in my hands and this makes shampooing very painful. It also exacerbated the neck and upper back I feel. For this, I got a scalp massager. It is a little handheld silicone brush head that helps you spread and massage shampoo into your scalp and hair to remove any build up and clean it. There are several different types of scalp massagers with different bristles and handles. Mine has a knob that you can make a fist around or hold between fingers. Others have straps or handles.
Another thing that has helped reduce the pain in my hands is getting products with pump dispensers. Having to squeeze bottles to get the product out would cause my hands to ache so much. But pushing down on a pump dispenser a couple of times hurts much less.
I still feel very tired and am in more pain after taking a shower
But using these aids and tools to ease my shower experience has made showering a lot more manageable and much less painful and exhausting.
There are still many days where I am not up to showering because of the pain and fatigue. And there are also days where I have to choose between washing my hair or my body so that I don’t make my symptoms worse. Some days I even have to ask my mom to help me wash my hair or shower. It is okay to need additional help even when you’ve got tips and tools up your sleeve.
Showering will likely always be a challenge for me, but I’m glad I’ve found ways to make it more doable.
Has changing your diet helped manage your pain and flares?