​The Consequence of Your Skin

Posted by Kristin Beale in Life After Paralysis on January 27, 2021 # Health, Lifestyle

When was the last time you thought about your skin hygiene? For the people with full pressure, pain, and discomfort sensation, maybe not so recently. For people like me with a neurological disorder, this is a very learned and very important habit of my every day. My Skin Hygiene Learning Curve, if you will, was a long and bumpy one.Kristin and fiance

There are a few lifestyle habits (and lack thereof) that cause me, Ms. Limited Sensation, to be more susceptible to skin breakdown. The nature of my disability is one that I’m stuck in a wheelchair during my waking hours, meaning that there’s constant pressure on my butt.

Enter: long and bumpy learning curve; it took me many years, a couple of surgeries, and having to miss going to a Beyonce concert before I made constant movement and pressure reliefs a habit.

On a similar note, we have friction and temperature injuries. A friction injury happens when you’re transferring from one surface to the next and, because of decreased sensation, you smack or scrape against a surface, causing a wound. After a few butt wounds that seemingly never heal (again, thanks to the constant pressure], I learned to push my body up higher during transfers to avoid scraping against or dragging myself across the surface below me. It’s a little bit of a “duh,” but it’s one of many on a list of Lessons of Disability.

Speaking of “duh,” temperature injuries. I’m more than 15 years into my disability, and I’m still making the mistake of putting hot plates on my lap. The most annoying-but-true lesson I took from a therapist while I was an inpatient after my accident was, “just because you can’t feel it doesn’t mean it’s not there, Kristin.” It’s true, guys. I have the scars on my thighs to prove it.

So, what can you do to prevent bad skin hygiene? As always, I have tips!

  1. Check yourself out. Had I been doing daily skin checks, I wouldn’t have had to miss that Beyonce concert, I would have avoided hospital stays, and the scars left on my butt from surgeries wouldn’t give me what my mother calls a “Franken-butt.” Check the bony areas, like your ischium, and anywhere that receives pressure for redness, blisters, and any discoloration on your skin. Then, make it a priority.
  2. Be mindful about what makes contact with your skin. I’m talking about the underside of my oatmeal bowl on my thighs, yes, but we also need to watch if there’s something leaning on us while we sleep, for example. I recently slept with a weighted blanket over my legs and feet, and ended up with an open wound on my heel because the pressure was too much. I am very much still riding that curve.
  3. Eat your protein, people! Also, drink water. An overall balanced diet is key to keeping your immune system able to fight off bacteria and illness, and for giving your body the ability to fight off those wounds. Protein builds your skin’s defenses against injury and, if you do accidentally injure yourself, the protein will help it heal.

People with disabilities have a lot more on the line, and we require a lot more effort to maintain the integrity of our skin. A prime example is my fiancé who, when talking about skin hygiene, said “like remembering to clean behind my ears!” I wish that was my biggest concern, but it’s not even close.

The blessing of disability is that our bodies are more complicated, more beautiful, and require a little bit more deliberation than our able-bodied counterparts. It’s up to you to keep that beautiful body healthy and functioning.

Kristin Beale is a native of Richmond, Virginia. She is the author of two books, Greater Things and A Million Suns, and a comic book, Date Me. Check them out and read an excerpt at https://kristinbeale.com/

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.