Prevent Pressure Ulcers for Wheelchair Users

Sep 26, 2016
Tagged with: Prevent Pressure Ulcers for Wheelchair Users

Pressure ulcers or bedsores arise if you have an inadequate supply of blood flow to the skin in a particular region. They form when your skin and soft tissue presses against a harder surface such as chair or bed for a long time. This pressure reduces the blood flow to the area. Lack of blood supply damages the skin tissues resulting in pressure ulcers. The most typical reason for a pressure sore is the lack of movement. So, it is common in people who are moving in wheelchairs or lying in a bed. People who are overweight or underweight can also develop pressure ulcers. It also happens to people who are not able to control their bowels or bladder and people who spend a lot of time in one position.

Pressure sores are associated with poor quality of life, greater risks of death and high healthcare costs. However, most of the pressure ulcers are preventable. In this article, we will be discussing how a wheelchair user can develop a pressure ulcer and how can they prevent it.

Why Wheelchair Patients develop Pressure Ulcers

A number of wheelchair users have seating inadequacies that can lead to the development of pressure ulcers. In a research carried out in a nursing home by NCBI, quantified that one-third of the wheelchair users faces sitting discomfort and more than half deal with high sitting interface pressure.

The research also showed that most of the wheelchairs do not fit their users and leads to poor mobility and poor posture. Moreover, the individuals who cannot reposition themselves at their own tend to be at a greater risk for ulcer development.

How Pressure Ulcers Develop

Pressure ulcers develop slowly in four stages –

  1. The skin in the area gets heated and red. This soreness does not go away even after fifteen minutes despite the pressure reduction.
  2. Slowly an open wound appears like a blister and it is painful and red in color.
  3. The skin layer slowly breaks and the wound seeps out. The blister is red but the sore does not hurt anymore.
  4. The wound opens up to the muscle tissue or bone and keeps resting. If the wound is closed, slowly a black scan covers it. The wound remains red.

What Wheelchair Users Can Do to Prevent Pressure Ulcers

Several studies have revealed that the wheelchair users can prevent the pressure sore if they look after a few things.

The first thing that they need to look into is the size of the wheelchair. It must be the right size for the patient. Make your doctor check the fit once or twice in a year. Say if you have gained weight ask your doctor whether the wheelchair you are using is still fit for you. In case, if you feel pressure in any region asks your doctor to check immediately.

Studies suggest that one can use –

  • Pressure-redistributing wheelchair cushions specially designed to maintain the tissue integrity and reduce the occurrence of pressure sores that happens due to prolong sitting.
  • Even use a foam or gel cushion that subtly fits the wheelchair of the user.
  • Even you can use natural sheepskin pads, which helps to reduce the pressure on the skin.


  • The caregiver should shift the weight in the wheelchair every 15 to 20 minutes. This helps to take the pressure off the certain areas and helps to regulate the blood flow.
  • If you want to shift from one wheelchair to another, lift your body up with your arms.


  • Never sit on a donut shaped cushion
  • Never drag yourself while shifting from one chair to another.


Prevention is better than cure. If you find that, your wheelchair does not fit or your caregiver does not know the proper ways to shift, take the advice of the experts immediately.

Have any question in mind? Feel free to ask in the comments below.


Here are the links to include in posts:

1. Keyword: control their bowels or bladder


2. Keyword: NCBI





Author: Renu Sharma

  • bobl07

    So many people I know still deal with pressure soars despite having a disability for so many years. Thank you so much for these tips. I also think that they need to have seating appointments to assess positions and cushions.

  • Kristy Welby

    There is also another solution: standing wheelchairs. I wrote about its benefits here: