November 4, 2015

The Zipping Challenge is Not What You Think

Now that it is cold I need to zip my coat.  Velcro closures on my raincoat do not keep me warm.  When I sit, gaps form between the Velcro tabs which lets body heat escape.  I was surprised to learn the hardest part of zipping a coat is not grabbing the zipper tab.  The step that requires the most precise finger control is holding the bottom of the coat.  The 2nd photo below shows I am holding the bottom of the coat with three fingers in a 3-jaw chuck grasp.

Holding the bottom of a coat has to accomplish two things.  First, my bottom finger is keeping the joined tab and the zipper perfectly aligned.  ONLY IF you accomplish the 1st step do you get to proceed to the 2nd step which is holding the bottom of the coat still as the other hand pulls up the zipper tab.  Having a stroke does not stop zippers from being cantankerous.

Before zipping I use one remedial strategy.
To remember what I learned while doing finger exercises, I rehearse pinching my thumb and index finger together to wake up the muscles I need to zip.  I use 3 compensatory strategies.  (1) I don a rubber finger cot designed to sort money to get better traction.  (2)  My hemiplegic (paralyzed) thumb and finger grab a small piece of fabric that is attached to the zipper tab (see white rectangle above).  The fabric is less slippery than the metal tab.  (3) My hemiplegic hand can pull the zipper tab up only two inches.  Going higher requires wrist flexion which forces my hand to open.  After two inches I switch my hemiplegic hand to holding the bottom of the coat still while my sound hand finishes the zipping.  The 3rd photo shows you why I am not sad that I use a combination of remediating deficits and compensation.  I also hate being stared at when I stand next to a wall near a store exit so I will not get bumped by people as I zip my coat - another reason to speed things up with compensation + remediation.


  1. This is so hard. I have to confess I have been using my teeth to pull up the cord on my zipper. I hate compensating with my teeth - I'm afraid of breaking one and getting germs in my mouth. I'm going to try this.

  2. I understand your dilemma. Having to put objects in my mouth is awful on so many levels.