Did you know the skin is the largest organ in the body? Not many people realize just how important the skin is. And after a spinal cord injury, the skin needs to be checked much more often since you’re sitting 24/7 – always when you get up and then when you go to be bed to make sure it’s in good shape. The reason – sitting all day puts you at high-risk for pressure sores.
Many people with spinal cord injuries eventually get a pressure sore however despite their efforts, and they take forever to heal. They also can turn your life upside-down. You have to stay in bed to heal them – bedrest – which means no going out to work, no busy social life, and a long time away from life in general. And they can even kill you if they get infected.
But they don’t always have to be a reality of living with a spinal cord injury. You can fight them off and still have great skin after an injury. You just need to know what to do.
Daily Skin Checks
One of the first things you should do are daily skin checks. If you’re a paraplegic and do all of your cares on your own, use a mirror to look at your skin, and look at what are called “high-risk” areas. The tailbone and butt, elbows, ankles, and any areas of the body easily pressed on by anything, like leg bag straps or buttons. Just keep an eye on these areas and look for red areas, which can be the sign of a pressure sore starting.
Pressure relief is also something you should do every day. This is different for everybody, but it basically means changing your position in your wheelchair so you’re not in the same spot all day long. This can really help your skin in the long-term. A lot of people lift up under each knee and hold up for their leg for 10 seconds to take pressure from the butt.
Others if they’re strong enough will just press their arms on their armrests and lift up their butts off their seats, holding them for 10 seconds, and they’ll do this a few times a day. Proper positioning – sitting nice and straight in your chair and having a cushion made for your body – can really help too.
Since your skin sensation has diminished, you also want to be on the lookout for anything hot or extremely cold touching your body. This can be dangerous and can cause autonomic dysreflexia. Having too much friction and moisture on your skin can also be bad. Make sure to dry it when it gets wet too to prevent any kind of infection. And of course not smoking, drinking plenty of water and eating healthy helps the skin in a huge way.
And last, swelling can happen, especially in the feet and legs when it gets warm outside (and if you’ve been sitting in your wheelchair all day). This isn’t dangerous, just uncomfortable. Elevating the feet while you sleep can help bring down any swelling in the feet fast.
Please watch the video below to learn even more about how the skin needs to be protected after a spinal cord injury, and make sure to read the Takeaway Points below.
Video: SCI-U: Skin – Part 3 (How the Skin Works, Skin Post SCI, Pressure Sores)
- Look out for pressure sores
- Look at bony areas daily
- Careful of extreme temps
- Careful of moisture
- Careful of friction; bad wheelchair and bed positioning can cause sores
- Don’t smoke
- Careful of tiny stuff on clothing: Zippers, buckles, braces, leg straps, etc
- Swelling can occur in the extremities
- Pressure relief daily is a must
Skin Care & Pressure Sores – UAB-SCIMS – http://www.msktc.org/sci/factsheets/Skincare