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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

SCI Health Series: Quadriplegic Weight Loss Options

Being in top physical form feels great, but after paralysis, that can seem like a distant dream. Quadriplegics of all levels have a tendency to become overweight as the years creep forward. From not walking to chronic pain, it can be difficult to stay in shape.

IMPORTANT: A person’s ideal weight should be determined by a licensed medical professional.

The right amount and the right kinds fat are good for the body. Saturated fats for instance are required to strengthen cell walls. Additionally, fats keep a person’s skin healthy and reduce inflammation. Plant-based sources of fat are the healthiest, such as walnuts and almonds. Especially for quadriplegics, a layer of fatty tissue around bony areas can provide skin breakdown protection especially when muscles have atrophied in those areas.

But there are many ways to beat the bulge. From diet modification and targeted exercises to minor plastic surgery, people with spinal cord injuries can lose unwanted fat and weight. Read on for some of our best tips!

Option 1: Lower Your Daily Calories

For quadriplegics, one of the easiest ways to lose weight is to lower caloric intake. Since you have limited muscle movement and aren’t walking as before, your recommended calorie intake is 28 calories per kilogram (kg). So to maintain a weight of 130 pounds, for example, you would first divide your weight in pounds by 2.2 (130/2.2 = 59.09 kg). Then to figure out the actual recommended calories you would by 28 cal per kilogram (59.09×28 = 1,654.52). A 130 pound quadriplegic should consume around 1654.52 calories per day.

To lose weight, however, you would need to decrease your daily calorie intake by 500 calories. This will ensure you lose one pound each week. What is great about this method is that no exercise is required, making it a fantastic option for any high-level quads, as well as anyone who doesn’t have access to FES.

IMPORTANT: These are general guidelines and do not account for differences in age, gender or activity levels. Adjustments are always required.

Option 2: Try Fat-burning Exercises

If you are able to move your arms, there are several helpful fat-burning exercise videos for quadriplegics on Youtube that can help you lose unwanted pounds. A 20-minute workout four days a week can help you lose a pound a week.

One of our favorite quadriplegic fitness instructors is Ben Clark, a former champion swimmer and C6 quadriplegic from Australia. He creates workout videos for quadriplegics. If you have Therabands, stretchy workout bands and hand weights (along with Active Hands for gripping), you’ll be able to do many of his workouts. Visit his channel, Adapt to Perform.

Option 3: Coolsculpting

Although costly at about $700 per procedure, Coolscultping is one of the newest ways many people with quadriplegia are getting rid of stubborn belly fat, aka “quad guts,” which many can’t seem to lose no matter how much they work out or diet. This is the only FDA-approved fat-freezing procedure, and it successfully minimizes fat cells.

While the jury’s still out on how long the procedure lasts (doctors claim it lasts forever, but time will tell), it is great to see a cheaper option available other than a tummy tuck to get rid of the quad gut. Watch a success story from a man with quadriplegia, here

Option 4: Abdominal Binders

While it technically doesn’t help with weight loss, abdominal binders – used by many quadriplegics – hide stomach fat under clothes. Although abdominal binders are used primarily to maintain elevated blood pressures in quadriplegics, an attractive stomach profile is a nice side effect! And most insurance plans cover abdominal binders.

Whatever is holding you back, know that you can lose weight as a quadriplegic. While the methods available are limited, they work. With some hard work and dedication, it can absolutely happen. We wish you success!

IMPORTANT: It is important to closely monitor any type of compression clothing especially on bony areas like the ribs and spinal vertebra. Check every skin regularly for any changes in skin integrity.

Have you tried losing weight since becoming a quad? What worked?

Learn more

3 Amazing Wheelchair-User Weight Loss Stories

How to Really Lose Weight Without Walking

Everyday Nutrition for Individuals with Spinal Cord Injury

Quadriplegic Weight Loss Videos


ASK JORDAN (5) Q&A ♡ My Diet/Fitness Routine, Struggles & World Peace

Workout Wednesday 2 C5 C6 Quadriplegic

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