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Preventing Pressure Sores/Injuries

Pressure ulcers/injuries can develop quickly, even on healthy skin. That’s why taking steps to prevent them is so important. Taking pressure off the skin is the first step. That means changing positions often, supporting the body, and trying not to rub or slide the skin. Keeping the skin clean, eating well, and stretching the joints and muscles can also help prevent pressure ulcers/injuries.

Change positions often

Changing positions often allows blood to get to the skin and keep the tissue healthy. Keep these tips in mind:


  • Shift weight from side to side at least once an hour—every 15 minutes if you can.

  • Ask about pads and cushions that reduce pressure on the skin.


  • Change positions at least every 2 hours, or more often, if you can.

  • Use lightweight sheets and blankets to reduce pressure from above.

  • Ask about special pads and mattresses that spread pressure over a larger area of the body.

Support the body

Supporting the body spreads pressure over a larger area. Try these tips when sitting or lying in bed:


  • Lightly cushion the back and buttocks. Don’t use donut-type cushions. They can cut off the blood supply to the skin.

  • Lightly pad the footrest on a wheelchair.

  • Ask about pads and cushions that reduce pressure on the skin.


  • When lying on your back, put pillows under the lower calves and ankles. Keep the elbows slightly bent. Avoid lying on your hip, use a 30 degree angle.

  • When lying on your side, put pillows behind the back, between the legs, and between the ankles. Keep elbows and knees slightly bent.

  • Elevate heels off bed with pillows or offloading devices.

Stay away from positions that cause rubbing/sliding

Rubbing (friction) and sliding (shearing) cause the skin to break down more easily.


  • Keep the feet on a footrest, so the thighs are horizontal. This keeps the buttocks from sliding forward.

  • Support the shoulder blades and back with a pillow.

  • Try not to lean to one side or the other for long periods.


  • Keep the sheets smooth, dry, and free of crumbs. Use a sheepskin pad to prevent rubbing.

  • Keep the feet and head slightly raised to avoid sliding. Don’t raise the head more than 30 degrees, however, except to allow sitting up to eat.

  • Elevate heels off bed with pillows or offloading devices.

Keep the skin clean

Keeping the skin clean and soft also helps prevent pressure ulcers/injuries. You should:

  • Clean the skin of sweat, urine, or wound drainage.

  • Apply protective creams and use absorbent pads for someone who lacks bladder or bowel control.

Provide good food and movement

Someone who’s in a bed or a wheelchair most or all of the time needs to:

  • Eat enough calories to maintain a stable weight.

  • Get plenty of protein, vitamins/minerals, and drink lots of fluids each day.

  • Get out of the bed or chair as much as possible.

To learn more

For more information, go to the Pressure Ulcer/Injury Resource mobile app.


Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 8/1/2018
Copyright © The StayWell Company, LLC. except where otherwise noted.
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