For people with amputations, the combination of a prosthesis with heat and perspiration equals chafing. Whether it’s a change in the weather or an increase in daily activity, painful chafing on your residual and around your prosthesis can put a stop to your favorite activities (or at least make them incredibly uncomfortable). A better understanding of the conditions that lead to chafing and a few tips and tricks can keep your skin healthy and you active.
The Causes of Chafing
Repetitive rubbing and friction on the skin cause tiny tears on the skin’s surface. If the rubbing goes on long enough, a red rash can develop. Extreme cases may even bleed. The chances of chafing increase when temperatures rise and the skin becomes hot, clammy, or covered in moisture or perspiration. Anywhere on the body where there’s frequent skin-on-skin, skin-to-clothing, or skin-to-prosthetic contact can potentially chafe.
People with amputations often perspire more than usual. Prostheses, even well-designed and fitted models, are more likely to trap heat against the body, increasing body heat and perspiration. It’s also more work to do everything from standing to running with a prosthesis, which contributes to more heat build-up. A prosthesis also creates more contact points that can potentially chafe.
Certain types of amputations like transfemoral (above the knee) amputations are more prone to chafing, too. The intimate fit of a transfemoral prosthesis often gets in close contact at the inner thigh and groin areas, where there also tends to be more heat build-up.
Chafe prevention takes extra effort, but it’s crucial to maintaining mobility. If the chafing gets severe enough, you may have to stay out of your prosthesis until the skin fully heals. Or, you may find yourself avoiding certain activities to avoid the discomfort of chafing. Taking daily preventative measures can keep you moving and active even when you’re pushing your limits or enjoying time outside in warm weather.
How to Reduce (and Prevent Chafing)
Check Your Prosthesis’ Fit
A change in seasons, weight (up or down), or activity level can alter the fit of your prosthesis. Stay on top of fit issues by scheduling and keeping recommended appointments with your prosthetist. If you notice a change in fit, contact your prosthetist as soon as possible. Small adjustments to the socket, liner, or sock you use can prevent fit problems. Fit also affects your energy expenditure. Poor fit may cause you to overcompensate or change your gait, using more or the wrong muscles for movement and overheating the body.
Keep Your Liner Clean
Hygiene cannot be stressed enough when it comes to not only preventing chafing but preventing infections of all kinds on your residual. Clean your liner every day. You can use the same gentle cleanser you use to clean your skin on the liner. You can even take the liner in the shower with you to clean it at the same time as the rest of your body. If you’re heavily perspiring or know that you will be, you may need to clean and dry your liner (or change your sock) mid-day.
Be Vigilant About Hygiene
Be vigilant about keeping your skin clean and moisturized. Avoid heavily scented products and harsh cleansers that can irritate the skin. Moisturize the skin before donning your prosthesis and before going to bed. Use moisturizers like VitalFit’s Day Moisturizer that contain anti-fungal ingredients and help prevent infection and odors, and a Night Moisturizer that promotes healing. Well moisturized skin remains supple and flexible, reducing the chances of chafing.
Prep the Skin in Advance
We’ve already covered the need for cleansing and moisturizing the skin, but there are other ways to prepare the skin when you know chafing could be on the horizon. Liquid to powder products go on like a lotion and dry to create a friction barrier that provides an extra layer of protection against chafing. This type of product works well because it stays in place during heavy perspiring. Apply on the skin within and around the socket. You can also apply this type of product to other areas of the body that get warm and could potentially chafe.
Take Skin and Liner Cleaning Supplies with You
As days get longer and you spend more time outside, the chances of being away from home and needing to clean your skin or liner to prevent chafing increase. Take travel-size bottles of your favorite cleanser, and keep a water bottle on hand to clean your skin. After the skin has dried, reapply your liquid to powder product and redon your prosthesis.
Chafe prevention and skin care are an integral part of staying active as a person with an amputation. It might take extra time to prep the skin and care for it when you’re away from home, but you gain the rewards of continued mobility, independence, and an active life.