Thursday, May 12, 2016

Bathing with a Leg Cast


One of my dear friends (and I know occasional readers, hello Debbie!) has also dealt with some unfortunate ankle issues, and the other day asked me about the realities of keeping my cast dry while bathing. I was more than happy to answer her, but if she has questions maybe some of you do as well so today I thought we'd get up close and personal. Obviously everyone's experiences are going to be a little different, and as always I am not a healthcare professional, but here is my reality of bathing with a cast after three ankle surgeries.

Supply list:
Dry shampoo
Cleansing wipes
Cast protector
Shower bench
Handheld shower head
Relaxing bubble scent of choice
An extra towel, hand towel sized
Whatever other regular bathing supplies you use (my favorite shampoo & conditioner, FYI)

Honestly, The name of the game here is SLOW & STEADY. The absolute last thing you want to do is slip and fall and further injure yourself. For all of this, I suggest, if possible, bathing while someone is home (which sounds weird, but that way you can holler for help if needed) or at least keeping your phone nearby so you can call someone you're willing to let see you in a quite compromising state, It is good to have at least one of those friends though. But, safety is important, and sometimes beat out modesty. Obviously, make adjustments for your own situation, but here's how I go about it.

Day one:
The first day or two after your surgery, ignore the rest of this post. You do not want to deal with trying to get in and out of a tub or shower, no matter how appealing freshly washed hair might sound. Trust me on that one. Make use of my best friend (even when not recovering from surgery), dry shampoo. Boys, even you can use this, they make unscented versions. You just spray it in your hair, let it sit for a few minutes and absorb the oil, then brush it out and voila. Seriously it is great. Combine that with a wipe down from some cleansing wipes and you'll few maybe not good as new, but a lot better than falling on your face from trying to climb into a bathtub one-day post-op.

For baths:
Position the shower bench along the outside of your bathtub. Prep yourself for your bath, and gently place your cast protector on your leg. Ensure that there is a snug seal (I usually tug the protector back down towards my toes a bit just to make sure it is secure).

Place the hand towel on the shower bench. This will allow for what I call "swivelabilitiy." It is a technical term. Trust me, I am (not) a professional. Sit on the bench with your back to the tub, then slowly swivel yourself, lifting your legs so they are in the tub. Place your good foot solidly into the bath. Here's where you want to make sure you've got secure handholds. Gently shift your weight into the bath, only on your good leg, and gently lower yourself into the bath. Now, relax. You'll notice your lovely cast protector will inflate. Enjoy the sight of your cast covered leg floating in the tub. Pretty silly, right?

Once your bath is completed, use your good leg to gently push yourself up to the lip of the tub. Go slowly, slowly, slowly, and make sure your footing is secure! Shift yourself carefully over to the bench. Gently remove the cast protector without disturbing your cast and/or wrappings. Hang up the protector to dry. Swivel back to the outside of the tub, dry off (especially the bottom of your good foot so you don't slip) and continue on your merry way.

For showers:
Position the bench inside of your bathtub or shower. Prep yourself for your shower, and gently place your cast protector on your leg (I usually tug the protector back down towards my toes a bit just to make sure it is secure).

Enter the shower, and remove the shower head before you sit down on the bench. Trust me on that one. We have a tub with a shower, and even with the cast protector on, what I actually do is set my leg up on the rim of the tub out underneath the curtain, resting on a towel. That way it was out of the way, I didn't have to worry about accidentally dropping a bottle of shampoo on it or getting it wet (although really those cast protector are great) and the towel helped keep it comfortable.

I hope this makes sense, and I hope this helps. Again, this is what works for me, but tweak it for yourself and remember to go slowly and be careful. But you know what else works for me? Tonight I have an appointment at my hair salon to get my hair washed. Just washed. Because as much as I've written all of this out for you, it is a pain to do, and the process of drying my hair and styling it and making it look pretty enough to go out in public is even worse so I'm more than happy to fork over some money to have my lovely stylist do it for me as a special post-surgery treat. What about you? Do you have any advice to staying not-so-smelly after surgery? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

***UPDATE 5/13***
So yesterday while writing this I, of course, emphasized the safety issues of bathing while in a cast, but the entire reason we go to so much trouble is to keep the cast dry, This morning, I took a bath to get ready for the day. As I drained the water, I had a sinking, sloshing feeling. It seems there was a leak in my cast protector, and water had not just trickled in but done a proverbial Niagra and completely soaked through my dressings.

I followed the above procedures for exiting the tub. and called my surgeons office. Of course, they couldn't fit me in today, but they do have an urgent care clinic that opened at 1:00, and my dear friend (and New York Mom) Debbie, who is the most wonderful and amazing person and if you would take time to thank her in the comments I'd appreciate it drove me this afternoon. They changed out my splint (turns out it isn't technically a cast) and redressed everything nice and quick and we were back out the door.

I have updated the cast protector link so it is no longer the protector that I had that broke but the one that I recommend now, the one that I used on a daily basis during my first surgery with no problem but somehow misplaced in the move from the apartment to the house. I reordered that sucker on Amazon, one day shipping. If you're going to get one, get that one.

This post contains Amazon Associate links. If you purchase any of the items found in these links, there is no additional cost to you, but it does provide a small source of income for me that helps fund my reading and Disney habits!


  1. Thanks Jenna. I was wondering about how you manage in case I need surgery in the fall. I am hoping everything is fine but the girl scout in me likes to be prepared. Hope you are feeling better every day.

  2. My method was more crude, but it worked for me.

    I placed a small plastic stool (about the tub's height in the tub) and sat for bathing. I put my affected leg (left) onto the toilet lid with a folded towel on the lid for comfort. I would then wrap a towel around my knee and the top of the splint/cast in order to prevent water from entering.

    After filling the tub with some warm/hot water I used a cup to rinse and my normal shampoo and soap to bathe. It wasn't the most comfortable method, and I was often freezing in there. However, it kept me from being that stinky guy.

    The first week or two I needed assistance bathing, but after that I was able to handle it on my own.

    Admittedly, I'll have to come up with something different when its time for the right foot simply due to the bathroom layout.