The 17th of November is #StopPressureUlcerDay and across the UK organisations have been sharing their best practise and raising awareness of pressure sores. To coincide with this, we’ve come up with our own top tips to help prevent them.
A pressure ulcer or sore is an injury to the skin and the tissue just underneath it. If you sit or lie in the same position for several hours, the pressure may cut off the blood flow to that area. This can starve the tissue of oxygen, causing it to die and a pressure ulcer will form. Often when we feel this pressure, the brain will send signals to let you know you need to adjust your position. However, if you have a spinal cord injury you may not feel the pressure build up because you have little or no sensation in that area or the ability to adjust your position. With this in mind, we’ve come up with some tips that can help you prevent a pressure ulcer:
- Check your skin twice daily for any skin abnormalities or marks – anything that looks unusual.You should check your skin before you get up and when you return to bed. If you’re unsure about a mark on your skin, try applying pressure to it with your finger for a couple of seconds. If the colour remains the same and you don’t see blood flowing back to that area, it could be the beginning of a pressure ulcer.
- If you wear tight clothing, be mindful of the friction that it creates against the skin. A lot of jeans will have tiny studs on the back pockets which could lead to a pressure ulcer. Similarly loose clothing may create folds that could also create pressure points on your skin.Clothing should ideally be of a natural material to allow the skin to breathe . If the clothing has some stretch, it will help reduce pressure when sitting in your chair.
- Change your position regularly. ‘Pressure-relieving’ every 15-30 minutes will avoid putting pressure on one area and is a very effective way of preventing pressure ulcers.This can be most simply done by leaning forward in your chair. This will relieve the pressure over the bony parts of your bottom .
- If you find a mark, think about whether there’s anything that you’ve changed recently in your routine that may have caused this: have you been using a new wheelchair, or a new cushion? Did you change your method of transferring? Have you got a new shower seat?
- If you fall out of your wheelchair, it is essential that you check your skin for any bruises. A bruise or a cut may eventually become a pressure ulcer. If you notice either of these, make sure not to apply any pressure to those areas. They may take a long time to heal so you need to be extra vigilant.
- If you notice something on your skin, but you’re not sure if it’s worth worrying about, take a photo on your camera phone. You can compare the mark to the photo a few hours later and see if there’s any change.
- It’s incredibly important that you don’t ignore anything because the longer you wait, the worse it will get. If you find a pressure mark on your skin you should always stay off it until it’s gone. If you’re still concerned we recommend you contact your local healthcare professional, or your local spinal centre can also offer practical advice.
Further information on pressure ulcers can be found on the NHS’s website here and if you have any questions you can contact us on 020 8875 6723