Often the most effective strategy for combating ulcers is proper positioning.

Millions of Americans live with disabilities that require them to be reliant on wheelchairs and other devices. Some of these individuals are forced to live perpetually bed-bound. According to a 2012 report in the journal Seminars in Neurology, there are quite a few side effects associated with immobility, including pain, bone damage or loss, and muscle spasticity.

But one of the most common symptoms is pressure ulcers, which can occur after prolonged exposure to beds, wheelchairs and other surfaces. A 2009 report noted that not only do pressure ulcers affect about 3 million American adults, but the number of hospitalizations has increased, jumping from 280,000 in 1993 to 455,000 by 2004.

Fortunately, there are ways to contend with these so-called bedsores, and often the most effective strategy is proper positioning.

Get moving around

As mentioned above, these ulcers form after a person lies in bed or in their wheelchair for several hours, which irritates the skin that eventually leads to this painful, potentially threatening injury. As such, the best way to prevent ulcers from forming is to move around frequently. Most experts will tell you to change positions once every couple of hours. Even something simple as shifting from your back to your side can make a world of difference. The aim is to let the irritated skin breathe more, even if only for a short while.

Bring the pillows

For some folks, these regular movements aren’t always easy, especially since they must rely on a caregiver or family member. If that’s the case, the National Institutes of Health suggested relying on pillows to prevent ulcers. That way, you’re putting a soft barrier between you and the surface below, one that can breathe and shift much more readily. For optimal results, be sure to place a pillow under your elbows, heels, shoulders and tailbones. According to Daily Caring, there are even special mattresses to minimize ulcers.

Try massage

According to the International Encyclopedia of Rehabilitation, part of proper positioning can be regular body massages. Not only can these feel good for the patient, but massages are a great way to get people used to being touched and moving regularly. As the IER pointed out, massages should involve quick rubbing actions, lasting no more than 10 to 15 seconds a piece. Some products can be used to aid the massage, but it is best if they don’t dry out the skin. Your best bet is to use emollients or emulsions, which can moisturize the skin.

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