It is the unfortunate reality that those who suffer from long term disabilities or are simply elderly, have a lack of mobility. This often leads to prolonged periods of sitting or lying and can become very uncomfortable, leading to poor posture and pressure injuries. It is estimated that half a million people in the UK will develop at least one pressure sore in any one year but there are ways of treating the condition.
One of the most important treatments, perhaps unsurprisingly, is investing in a chair that incorporates the necessary measures for pressure management in both the base cushion and the back cushion. As well as having the correct base and back cushion, your chair will also need to be suited to the size of an individual, provide enhanced postural support and have the facility for repositioning to achieve even weight distribution.
The link between posture and pressure:
When a person sits in a perfect postural position, their weight will be distributed evenly and as such their hips will be in a neutral position, ensuring proper alignment with the spine. However, if this alignment is out by as little as a few centimetres, it will lead to an unbalanced weight distribution, causing unnecessary pressure on one side.
An example of this could be where someone is leaning slightly to the right of their chair. The knock-on effect from this is that your spine will be curved to the left hand side, leading to an unnatural position and placing stress on the left buttock.
95% of Pressure Sores are avoidable:
A recent claim surrounding the subject of pressure sores is that 95% of them are actually avoidable if people look after themselves correctly. Far too often people look to remedy the solution of a pressure injury by looking at the quality of their bed and mattress. However, long periods spent in bed can negatively impact health, particularly psychological health.
The reality is that people who spend vast amounts of time in bed can develop depression, apathy and general lethargy as well as physical conditions such as muscular atrophy and less flexibility. This makes tasks such as writing, eating and even drinking difficult. Not only this, but there isn’t actually any empirical analysis that proves bed rest is a good solution for pressure sores.
Are chairs the solution?
It is well documented that a good sitting position can improve quality of life. It provides a natural restorative period, enables the surrounding muscles of spine to support proper alignment and has a number of psychological benefits. It also helps to reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure and improve digestion. All of the benefits listed have been known to help the reduction of pressure sores.
When looking for a chair that is going to provide exceptional comfort, postural support and pressure relief it is important to know what to look for. For instance, you should always look for specialist chairs that are approved by someone in the medical profession, as well as providing features that are specific to your needs. Some people will need lifting out of their chairs, whilst others may just need a chair that enhances posture and lumbar support.
The four ways to evenly distribute pressure:
There are a few top techniques when trying to evenly distributing weight across the body, some of which you’ll have to work at yourself. To weight bear in the correct way simply follow these useful tips and tricks:
Maximise surface area:
A quick solution to reducing a person’s pressure is to try and maximise the contact someone has with the surface of the chair they are sitting on. This will evenly distribute weight, thus putting less strain on one area of the body.
Additionally, having a chair which fits you means that your feet will be firmly on the floor and legs placed at a right angle, alleviating any unnatural strains from stretching. Also having the arms, head and neck in a natural position will again help to load the body in such a way that it evenly distributes weight.
Again, much to do with a correct fitting chair, it is crucial that both sides of the body has a share of equal weight. Having a tall back chair is perhaps one of the best seats to help with maintaining posture in order to help people keep a mid-line position.
However, either a dual tier or three tier fibre-filled back will also provide you with a great deal of postural support whilst also allowing for repositioning.
Positioning and repositioning:
One of the reasons that many people suffer with pressure sores is because they are unable to reposition themselves frequently. However, sporting a chair which gives you the ability to change positions often gives you the benefit of not resting in one position for long periods of time. An electric recliner chair will allow you to move positions which will allow for re-oxygenation of the tissues that are bearing the weight.
Comfort is in the cushion:
In order to alleviate or even prevent pressure injuries, the cushion in which you’ll be sitting on is inevitably the most important factor. A seat cushion should be the basis for proper postural support and work with the contours of the body to achieve ultimate comfort. Cushions using reflex technology or having a no-sag seat cushion will be the most effective for distributing weight, maximising surface space whilst not impacting the product.
The uncomfortable truth:
It is the stark reality that individuals who have pressure injuries have a higher rate of being susceptible to other underlying conditions, as well as many psychological problems. Not only this, but mortality rates are thought to be as high as 60% in those over seventy who develop a pressure sore within a year of being discharged from hospital.
It is fair to say that pressure injuries remain a problem in the UK and more could be done by healthcare professions considering that 95% of these injuries are thought to be avoidable. However, good seating is, at the very least, able to offer a preventative measure, if not an alleviator of pain to these injuries.