Problems Showering With Fibromyalgia & ME/CFS

Problems Showering With Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

By   November 16, 2010

A morning shower — it helps you start the day invigorated and refreshed, right? Um, no, not so much for many of us. A shower seems like a basic, simple thing, but it can pose major problems for someone with fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome.

I’ve seen a lot of comments here about how exhausting a shower can be. Why would a shower make us tired, sometimes even wiping us out for the rest of the day? Several of our physiological abnormalities could be playing into it.

  1. Exertion: Especially for those with chronic fatigue syndrome, even small amounts of exertion can be too much. A shower takes more energy than we tend to recognize — you’re standing the whole time, doing a fair amount of bending, stretching and reaching, and vigorously lathering up your head and body. When you consider that we often have to start an “exercise” routine with 2 repetitions of a simple movement, you can see how much work showering can be.
  2. Relaxation: The hot water of a shower can be relaxing, which is great in some ways. However, for those of us who deal with profound fatigue, it’s probably not the best thing for us early in the day, when we’re still fighting to wake up.
  3. Temperature Sensitivities: While the hot water may feel good, it can also get our temperature sensitivity going and throw off homeostasis. Our bodies have a hard time keeping us at the right temperature, so when we get heated up like that, it’s a lot of work to cool us back down to normal. Some of us get so over heated that we sweat profusely after a shower.
  4. Dizziness: We’re prone to dizziness, and the heat of the shower combined with the motions of washing can have your body working overtime to keep your sense of balance.  I’ve had frightening dizzy spells in a hot shower — very scary!
  5. Heightened Nerve Response: Especially in fibromyalgia, the pressure of the water hitting your skin can get your nerves riled up. It might not hurt while you’re in there, but the stimulation on our over-reactive nerves could put them closer to the point of sending erroneous pain signals and making you hurt all over.

Some ways to deal with the showering problem include taking a shower at night, so the exhaustion is welcomed, or taking baths instead. Baths do pose some of the same problems, but you’re sitting and not reaching or stretching as much, so they can be less taxing. A bath also tends to steam up the bathroom less, so you may have an easier time cooling off when you get out.

While I haven’t had an extreme problem with showering like some people have, when I’ve been at my sickest I’ve relied at times on cleansing wipes. I buy them for my face, but they work well for this, too. Unscented baby wipes also aren’t bad. I can use them to freshen up quickly and easily, especially on days that I’m not leaving the house anyway. It’s not a daily solution, but they can put off a shower when you’re just not up to it.  For me, feeling greasy is a sure way to make me feel bad about myself.

What does showering do to you? How has it impacted your life or your self esteem? What has helped? What makes it worse? Leave your comments below!

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