SCI Health Series: Preventing Skin Breakdowns

Pressure sores aren’t pretty nor are they fun, but they don’t have to be a default part of your life if you have a SCI. Despite their prevalence among people with paralysis, there are several tricks at keeping them at bay. After all, when you’re dealing with what is literally necrosis of localized tissue due to it being squeezed in a tight place, being on your A-game is a must.

And remember, pressure sores are prominent on bony areas like your sits bones, tailbone, elbows and any other parts of your body that don’t have as much tissue to protect the bones underneath. Pressure sores can develop anywhere from on the back to the bum. Here are the early signs to watch out for before unhappy skin turns into a full blown pressure sore.

Pressure Sore Warning Signs:

– Heightened red/pink area of the skin. When you touch to blanch it, this skin stays red after 10-30 minutes and won’t go away.

– Darker complexions: Areas of concern will be darker than the surrounding skin.

– Skin may be shiny in troubled areas.

– Skin that’s concerning may be warm or swollen, or cracked/dry.

Inspect Skin Daily

Looking at all of your skin when you’re paralyzed, especially your bum, everyday is a must. And if you don’t have assistance to look at all of your skin, you can always use a mirror or your phone to take a picture of any areas of concern. Also, make sure to measure the red spot so that you can tell if the area is getting worse in coming days.

Pressure Relief All Day

If you are able to, doing pressure relief of any kind in your chair from lifting up your legs to pressing your butt up off the wheelchair, is a must. Many quads also use tilt on their chairs to prevent pressure on troubled areas.

Drink Loads of water

We all know how good water is for the body, but it is even better for the skin. Drinking up to 8-10 ounces is preferred to keep skin in tip top-shape. It does wonders on the skin because skin is 64% water. Avoid soda if you can too.

Eat Skin-Healthy Foods

Foods that are rich in Vitamin E, D and Zinc are some of the best food out there for your skin. Also, foods are high in omega-3s like avocados are\ magic on the skin, making it glow the next day. Fatty fish also has amazing omega-3 properties. Basically, the healthier you eat, the better your skin will be. Green tea, dark chocolate, broccoli, tomatoes, red and yellow bell peppers, walnuts and sunflower seeds round out the list of skin healthy foods.

Get the Right Seating for Your Bum

Having the right seating is incredibly important in keeping your skin in shape. You can get a high-grade seat made by respected seating companies like Roho or Jay, and or you can get a seat that is custom-made to fit your body/bum by a seating clinic in your area (ask your doctor). Whatever kind of seating you prefer, make sure to consult a seating specialist or a rehab specialist, like a physical therapist.

Avoid Skin Shearing

And our last tip, avoid shearing of your skin. It’s impossible to stop shearing altogether when you use a wheelchair, due to transfers, dressing, and other basic movements, but there are certain things you can do to lessen the effects: Avoid any kind of weird angle position-wise while in your wheelchair or bed, be aware of the fabrics you’re wearing, be careful while transferring/don’t drag yourself and make sure to check how your wheelchair fits you.

If all else fails and you do see a troubled spot, do not wait. Call your doctor, nurse or wound clinic right away.

What do you swear by to keep up your skin post-injury?

Learn more

Preventing and managing skin problems after SCI

Spinal Cord Injury: Skin & Pressure Sores

Pressure Ulcers & Skin Care

Pressure Sore Prevention Videos

Pressure Ulcers Can Wreck Your Life! Preventing and Managing Skin Problems After Spinal Cord Injury

Avoiding Pressure Sores

Pressure Release – SCI Info | Quadriplegic (C5,C6,C7)

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia

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