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Protecting Wheelchair Users from Pressure Ulcers

For those with limited mobility, a wheelchair can help maintain your independence and quality-of-life. Avoiding pressure sores is crucial and HPFY 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 infection 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.

Protecting Wheelchair Users from Pressure Ulcers

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 is simply damaged skin from being in one position for too long due to limited mobility. These commonly occur in areas that are bony and don’t have a lot of excess tissue in the area (i.e. heels, elbows, and your backside). There are four main issues that can cause these types of injuries and they include:

  • External pressure applied to a body part
  • Friction that damages blood vessels directly under the skin
  • Shearing which separates the skin from underlying tissue
  • Moisture (sweat, urine, or feces)

These types of injuries can be difficult to heal, but can be avoided by a variety of 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. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? 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 there are some you may not know about that 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 of time you may be able to get away with a foam pad, but those who spend a longer period of 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.
Essential Medical Rehab 1 Wheelchair Foam Cushion ROHO Mosaic Air Cushion
Essential Medical Rehab 1 Wheelchair Foam Cushion
 
ROHO Mosaic Air Cushion
 
  • 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.
PDG Bentley Manual Tilt In Space Wheelchair Drive Deluxe Sentra Full Reclining Dual Axle Wheelchair
PDG Bentley Manual Tilt In Space Wheelchair
 
Drive Deluxe Sentra Full Reclining Dual Axle Wheelchair
 
  • Heel Cushions/Pads: One of the more susceptible areas of a wheelchair user can be their heels. This is due to the fact that our heels are a relatively bony area which endures pressure and over time can cause a sore. Many of these heel cushions or pads can offer enough padding to protect these delicate areas from pressure sores.
Oppo Silicone Heel Cushions Steady Step Sol Step Gel Heel Pad
Oppo Silicone Heel Cushions
 
Steady Step Sol Step Gel Heel Pad
 
  • Elbow Protectors: Another bony area that may be susceptible to pressure ulcers is the elbow. As you sit in your wheelchair, your elbows may constantly be in contact with your armrest or arm trough and since there is very little skin or tissue in the elbow, over time, your elbows may develop pressure sores. 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.
Action Products Heel and Elbow Pad Advanced Orthopaedics Heel Elbow Protector
Action Products Heel and Elbow Pad
 
Advanced Orthopaedics Heel Elbow Protector
 
  • 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.
Bilt-Rite Black Wheelchair Back Cushion Mabis DMI Deluxe Adjustable Back Support Cushion
Bilt-Rite Black Wheelchair Back Cushion
 
Mabis DMI Deluxe Adjustable Back Support Cushion
 
  • Lambskin/Sheepskin: 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 shearing of your skin. Anyone who has touched it can also attest to its softness and comfort.
Irish Medical Sheepskin Underlay Irish Medical Sheepskin Rug - Size 110cm+
Irish Medical Sheepskin Underlay
 
Irish Medical Sheepskin Rug - Size 110cm+
 
  • 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.
Medline Caring Body Lotion Life-Flo Pure Shea Butter Organic Moisturizer
Medline Caring Body Lotion
 
Life-Flo Pure Shea Butter Organic Moisturizer
 

Just by using or having some of these medical aids is not the total answer. By 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!!

 

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