Bed sores, also known as pressure ulcers, develop when there is too much pressure on the skin. This condition is more common in bedridden patients. These sores not only cause pain and discomfort, but may lead to infections, like meningitis, cellulitis and endocarditis, according to HealthLink BC. The shoulder blades, tailbone, elbows, heels and hips are the most common sites for bed sores because these areas contain little muscle and fat.
When the body doesn’t get any movement, it can hinder adequate blood flow to the skin, depriving it of nutrients and oxygen. If you are currently on bed rest, there are several things you can do to prevent bed sores.
Change positions frequently
When you change positions often, there will be less pressure on your skin, reducing your risk of developing pressure ulcers. It is a good idea to reposition your body at least every couple of hours. For example, if you have been lying on your back for a while, turn to your side. If you are unable to switch positions on your own, ask a family member or caregiver to help.
Keep skin clean and dry
The cleaner and drier your skin is, the less likely it will develop bed sores. Dip a wash rag in a bucket of warm water and mild soap and clean your skin with it. You will likely need another person to help you clean the hard-to-reach spots. Then, pat your skin dry with a towel. If you rub too hard, it can lead to skin irritation.
Another effective way to prevent bed sores is to put pillows between parts of your body that press against each other. National Institutes of Health recommends placing a pillow under your tailbone, shoulders, heels and elbows. If you are lying on your side, it is better to put the pillow between your knees and ankles.
When you can’t even get out of bed, the idea of exercise seems daunting. However, performing a few range of motion exercises in bed can help reduce the risk of bed sores. For example, you can start with an arm lift. Just lift your arm up as high as you can and hold it there for 10 seconds. Repeat the exercise on the other arm.
Bedsores are easier to prevent than to treat, but that doesn’t mean the process is easy or uncomplicated. And wounds may still develop with consistent, appropriate preventive care.
Your doctor and other members of the care team can help develop a good strategy, whether it’s personal care with at-home assistance, professional care in a hospital or some other situation.
Position changes are key to preventing pressure sores. These changes need to be frequent, repositioning needs to avoid stress on the skin, and body positions need to minimize pressure on vulnerable areas. Other strategies include taking good care of your skin, maintaining good nutrition, quitting smoking and exercising daily.
Repositioning in a wheelchair
Consider the following recommendations related to repositioning in a
Shift your weight frequently. If you use a wheelchair, try shifting your weight about every 15 minutes. Ask for help with repositioning about once an hour.
Lift yourself, if possible. If you have enough upper body strength, do wheelchair pushups — raising your body off the seat by pushing on the arms of the chair. Look into a specialty wheelchair. Some wheelchairs allow you to tilt them, which can relieve pressure.
Select a cushion that relieves pressure. Use cushions to relieve pressure and help ensure your body is well-positioned in the chair. Various cushions are available, such as foam, gel, water filled and air filled. A physical therapist can advise you on how to place them and their role in regular repositioning.