A pressure ulcer is an injury that involves a section of skin and the tissue beneath being broken down often above a prominently bony part of the body. A result of excessive pressure focused on small area of the body, ulcers are frequently suffered by people with poor posture and are a risk for anyone using chairs that don’t provide adequate support.
How do pressure ulcers develop?
Force placed on a patch of skin, as a result of an unbalanced sitting position or unsupportive seat can disrupt blood flow, preventing oxygen and nutrients from reaching the affected area. Over time the skin here will break down and an ulcer will begin to form.
Pressure ulcers can take less than one hour to develop if an area of skin is put under intense physical pressure. They can also take much longer to form, if a lighter but sustained load is placed on a specific part of the body.
There are two main causes of pressure ulcer:
Friction: Intensified by the downward force of a person’s weight, friction from the seating surface can cause damage to skin. Some friction with a chair is important in order to aid balance, however too much may cause a burn like injury that will form the basis of an ulcer.
Shear: With friction holding skin to a chair, shear is the effect of the skeleton moving over it. This can stretch the skin, restricting blood vessels and reducing flow to the affected area.
Preventing pressure ulcers
As humans we support 75% of our total weight on our Ischial Tuberosities (IT’s) – the lower part of our pelvis – which counts for just 8% of our body area. For someone suffering with bad posture, Pelvic Obliquity for example, this figure could be even higher.
With so much pressure placed on such a small area, ulcers can develop quickly. In order to prevent them four Principles of Pressure Management have been developed:
Load the body – By increasing the area of contact a person has with their chair, through the legs, feet, arms and back, you can reduce the force placed on each point. This will mean less weight put on individual parts of the body and therefore a reduced risk or pressure ulcers.
Provide postural support – Keeping the body centred over the pelvis is another way to promote equal distribution of weight and ensure that specific, smaller sections are not carrying more than they should be. Whether through good posture or by using additional support, this balance is necessary to prevent the excessive force that can cause ulcers.
Effective repositioning – To make sure that blood can flow freely around the body, seated individuals should reposition at least every two hours. This can be problematic for the elderly and infirm but is recommended in order to fight breakdown and decay of skin.
Cushions – A simple addition to a chair or recliner but can help to spread weight between body parts and reduce the pressure put on vulnerable areas of skin. How they are used will depend upon the seat in question and the body type of the individual.
With more than two-thirds of all pressure ulcers occurring around the coccyx and upper parts of the legs, they are a very real danger when sitting down. By considering your posture and the seating you use, you can significantly reduce the risk of pressure ulcers and the impact they have.
If you would like additional information on how recliners could stop pressure ulcers and improve posture, get in touch today. We have a huge selection of recliners available and offer a personal, bespoke service to help you find a recliner that will give you comfort, pressure management and put a stop to ulcers.