For those with limited mobility, a wheelchair can help maintain their independence and quality of life.
Avoiding pressure sores is crucial, and TOUSDA offers some tips to keep you healthy.
The fine line between maintaining your independence and mobility includes the risk of developing pressure ulcers for those who use wheelchairs daily.
Pressure sores may seem like a minor problem, but they can lead to serious health issues down the road.
These can be difficult to heal and can lead to serious infections over time.
As someone who uses a wheelchair daily, I may be able to help you find the best way to deal with them and avoid them altogether.
How Do Pressure Ulcers Develop?
I’m sure you have heard the term pressure sores or ulcers, but do you understand what they are and what causes them?
A pressure sore or ulcer damages skin from being in one position for too long due to limited mobility.
These commonly occur in bony areas and don’t have a lot of excess tissue in the area (i.e., heels, elbows, and your backside).
Four main issues can cause these types of injuries, and they include:
External pressure applied to a body part
The friction that damages blood vessels directly under the skin
Shearing separates the skin from the underlying tissue
Moisture (sweat, urine, or feces)
These injuries can be difficult to heal but can be avoided by various treatments such as proper skin hygiene, shifting positions regularly, and utilizing medical aids that alleviate pressure points.
How to Combat Pressure Ulcers?
Once you understand what causes a pressure sore, the next logical step is finding a way to make sure you avoid them.
Not so fast!! Once a sore or ulcer becomes advanced, it can be significantly more difficult to treat, so early intervention is crucial to avoid potential infection.
Yes, many of these products are common sense and are readily available, but some you may not know about are much more efficient in preventing pressure sores.
They can include:
Wheelchair Seat Cushions:
This is the first and best place to start.
When you are in a wheelchair, your backside takes the brunt of your body weight.
If you only use your wheelchair for short periods, you may be able to get away with a foam pad, but those who spend a long time in their chairs may benefit from a seat cushion that employs air bladders to disperse weight and minimize pressure points.
These air cushions come in many different forms and sizes to benefit just about every user with limited mobility.
Tilt in Space/Full Reclining Wheelchairs:
Your wheelchair itself can help prevent pressure ulcers.
One of the best methods for avoiding pressure ulcers and sores is by shifting positions, and wheelchairs that allow the user to shift positions while seated are well suited to handle the problem.
Tilt in space wheelchairs and full reclining wheelchairs shift pressure points so that one part of your backside does not take the brunt of your body weight.
Just a shift of a few degrees can be effective in minimizing the risk of pressure sores.
One of the more susceptible areas of a wheelchair user can be their heels.
This is because our heels are a relatively bony area that endures pressure and can cause a sore over time.
Many heel cushions or pads can offer enough padding to protect these delicate areas from pressure sores.
Another bony area that may be susceptible to pressure ulcers is the elbow.
As you sit in your wheelchair, your elbows may constantly contact your armrest or arm trough, and since there is very little skin or tissue in the elbow, your elbows may develop pressure sores over time.
By adding a little bit of foam padding or other material, you can add an extra layer of protection against pressure ulcers and even shearing.
Wheelchair Back Cushions:
The other part of your body that is in constant contact with your wheelchair is your back.
Wheelchair back cushions can vary in the types of foam used or thickness to minimize any pressure to your back or even shoulders depending upon the height of your wheelchair back.
Believe it or not, sheepskin or lambskin has medical benefits that can greatly affect your skin.
It is a great regulator of body temperature, therefore minimizing moisture and is soft enough to limit sharing of your skin.
Anyone who has touched it can also attest to its softness and comfort.
Skin Lotions and Nutrients:
By keeping your skin from drying out, you can be sure to keep your skin soft and pliable therefore avoiding cracking.
Lotions that include aloe or even lanolin can be beneficial to keeping your epidermis in good shape, while supplements that contain Vitamin E can provide the nutrients that our skin needs to stay healthy.
Just by using or having some of these medical aids is not the total answer.
Being diligent in shifting your position (if possible) and maintaining proper skin hygiene is crucially important in making sure our largest organ, the skin, is given the best hope.
Work with your physical therapist to find the best method for avoiding pressure sores, and be sure to be compliant!