Pressure ulcers, also known as bedsores, are more prevalent for individuals who spend much of their time in a wheelchair or in bed. They form when muscles and soft tissue press against those types of surfaces, which then cuts off blood supply. When there is no blood flowing to an area of the body, the skin tissue will die and a pressure ulcer may form.
For anyone who relies on a wheelchair, comfort is one of the top concerns. By increasing comfort, wheelchair users can simultaneously decrease the chances of forming a pressure ulcer. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, a wheelchair should never be too tight or too big.
To make sure a wheelchair is the right size, the editors at the NLM recommend having a doctor or physical therapist check the fit of a wheelchair once or twice a year, if you gain any weight and if you feel pressure anywhere.
According to the same editors, additional measures to prevent pressure ulcers include:
1. Sit on a foam or gel seat cushion that fits your wheelchair. Do NOT sit on donut-shaped cushions.
2. You or your caregiver should shift your weight in your wheelchair every 15 – 20 minutes. Leaning forward and moving from side to side will increase blood flow and take pressure off certain areas.
3. If you transfer yourself (move to or from your wheelchair), lift your body up with your arms. Do NOT drag yourself. If you’re having trouble transferring into your wheelchair, see a physical therapist to learn proper technique.
4. If your caregiver transfers you, make sure they know the proper way to move you.