Pressure injuries, otherwise known as pressure sores or ulcers, are areas of damaged skin and underlying tissue. They are caused by constant pressure or friction combined with low blood flow from lack of movement.
People with limited mobility, wheelchair users and those who are confined to a bed due to injury or illness are susceptible to developing pressure ulcers. Most commonly, pressure ulcers are found around bony areas of the body that contain little muscle and fat for protection which includes the tailbone, shoulder blades, elbows, hips and heels.
Not only are pressure ulcers painful and uncomfortable, they are difficult to treat. If left untreated, they can lead to serious health complications including:
- sepsis (bacteria entering the bloodstream)
- cellulitis (inflammation of body tissue, causing swelling and redness)
- bone and joint infections
- abscesses (collections of pus)
The best prevention for pressure injuries is exercise. If you have limited mobility, the idea of exercising might seem daunting, especially if you’re confined to bed rest. Yet there are several low impact motion exercises you can do to stimulate blood flow and reduce the risk of getting pressure ulcers:
Stretching your palms regularly is one of the simplest exercises you can do to stimulate blood flow. Begin by opening your palms as far as they can stretch and extend your fingers for a few seconds. Then touch your thumb with each finger. You can also bend all five fingers into a fist, hold for a few seconds and release. You can repeat this exercise as many times as you like on each hand.
This exercise can help loosen your ankle joints and help increase blood flow to the feet and legs. As you are lying back in a bed or sitting in a chair, bend your foot towards the floor for a few seconds, then up towards the ceiling. Depending on your ability, you can also rotate your feet in a circular motion. Ask your carer or family member to support and hold your ankle if you need.
Arm lifts can help build strength and dexterity. They can be performed on your own or with the help of a carer. To do this exercise, simply lift your arm as high as you can and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat and alternate with the other arm as many times as you can manage. If you can’t manage fully lifting your arm, bend your lower arm back towards your body so that your elbow reaches a 90-degree angle.
Foam Mattresses can help provide support to pressure care patients by relieving stress on the body. The Forte Sovereign Range offers high level aged and acute care management.
If you have the strength and ability, lift your legs a couple of times a day. Try raising your leg up to your hip joint, and hold it there for 10 to 30 seconds. Then alternate with the other leg. If you are unable to do this alone, ask a caregiver to help. If it is too uncomfortable to raise your legs, place pillows beneath the heels and knees to help relieve pressure. There are many pressure care cushions and foam mattresses that are specifically designed to help prevent pressure ulcers.
Before taking part in any exercises, consult your doctor or physician. This blog is purely informational and should not be substituted for medical advice. If you think you are developing a pressure injury, contact your local GP.
At Life Mobility, our range of Pressure Care Products provide support and help prevent the development of pressure ulcers. View our range of products here, visit our stores or contact us for further assistance.