Many people need to use a wheelchair in order to maintain their mobility and independence. These wheelchairs can vary from simple foldable lightweight frames to heavy battery-powered electric chairs, but the one thing they all have in common is their seats. Let’s face it, no matter what type of chair it is, the user must sit. This inevitably presents a potential problem to the user: pressure points. Below is a great diagram to illustrate how those in wheelchairs face multiple pressure points. To avoid these, it’s important to choose the right seating cushion for your chair and need.
For those who depend upon their wheelchair for mobility and independence, a potential hazard is the development of pressure ulcers or sores. The constant pressure of sitting can cause sores to develop due to localized diminished blood flow. Much like bedsores that are caused by being bedridden, pressure and shearing can contribute to these developing. Shearing is the action of our skin being rubbed in an abrasive manner. We must remember that our epidermis (skin) is our largest organ and any injury to it can lead to serious health issues. There’s a saying that goes “the best defense is a great offense.” This can be applied to actively preventing any type of pressure ulcer or sore from developing. Since the sores can lead to health issues such as infection, it is important that you be proactive in trying to avoid them altogether. Daily inspection of the potential danger areas can head off any serious problem. The primary method of prevention is distribution of weight and minimizing any extended period of pressure. One way to help you skin maintain its strength and vitality is to eat a diet with high levels of protein since our skin benefits from these proteins. Another great step to avoiding any type of skin breakdown is to minimize moisture. Excess moisture can cause rashes similar to a baby’s diaper rash, leading to skin breakdowns and infection. Also, limiting our skin’s contact with urine or fecal matter is also important. Remember, Benjamin Franklin once said “an ounce of prevention today is worth a pound of cure.” Wise man!!
As part of your prevention program, it’s crucial to understand how to minimize any pressure on your backside. Obviously if you sit on a hard object over a long period of time the prospectus of developing a pressure ulcer or sore is increased. So how do you limit pressure when sitting? The most obvious area that requires protection is our backside, but those who spend an extended period of time in a wheelchair also place pressure on their back and may benefit from a wheelchair back cushion. Since they have limited mobility, this part of the body can be particularly vulnerable to pressure. For someone that only uses a wheelchair for short periods of time, a foam cushion may benefit their backside and be all that is required to sit on. Many of these simple cushions can help prevent the coccyx area from developing any type of sore. Some wheelchair users may spend an extended period of time sitting in their chairs and those users can find it extremely beneficial to use some type of air cushion. These wheelchair cushions use bladders of air to evenly distribute weight, therefore minimizing any pressure areas. This concept can even be taken one step further with the use of an alternating air cushion and pump system which alternates air pressure to different bladders in the cushion and redistributes the user’s weight. You should work with your doctor to find which type of wheelchair cushion is suitable for you and your lifestyle.
|Bilt-Rite Ez Aide Back Cushion
|ROHO High Profile Single Compartment Cushion
|Blue Chip Chair Air Alternating Air Wheelchair Cushion and Pump System
Pressure is bad!! Quite the understatement, isn’t it? It’s bad in our life and it’s even worse when we’re dealing with sitting for long periods of time. Taking a proactive approach to skincare in vulnerable areas can head off serious health issues down the road. The best way to avoid any potential skin breakdown or infection is to avoid it altogether.
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Kevin Cleary has been a Health Products For You contributor for many years and has a degree in marketing. His health and wellness journey has a very personal meaning and has guided him in his content writing for HPFY.
In 2006, ...
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