Preventing pressure sores and stiff joints after a stroke

Pressure sores

Lying or sitting in one position for a long period of time can cause pressure sores or ulcers. Pressure sores develop when pressure on the skin causes a decrease in the blood supply to the tissue. To prevent pressure sores:

  • Check your skin daily, especially over bony parts such as your elbows, heels, knees, buttocks, and tailbone and on your back along your spine. Pressure sores most often form on those parts of the body.
  • When you bathe, gently clean and thoroughly dry your skin.
  • If you have problems with bladder control, wear small disposable pads that you can change when they become wet.
  • Use small amounts of cornstarch as a body powder to help prevent skin irritation. Don't use talcum powder.
  • Sit on a pillow or foam pad to relieve pressure on your tailbone. Try to avoid sitting or lying in the same position for more than 1 or 2 hours.
  • Use a pillow between your knees to relieve pressure when you are lying on your side.
  • Avoid rubbing your elbows and heels against the bed covers when you change position in bed.
  • Make sure that you are getting good nutrition. If you don't eat well, you are more likely to become injured or take longer to heal.

Joint stiffness

If the joints of your affected limb are not moved through their full range of motion, they can become stiff to the point that they can no longer be straightened. Here are some tips to prevent stiff joints:

  • Change your position every 1 to 2 hours during the day.
  • Position your affected arm or leg to keep its mobility. For example, put a rolled washcloth in your hand to prevent hand stiffness.
  • Exercise all your joints at least twice each day.
  • Do not allow your affected arm or leg to be under your body when you are lying down.
  • Do not allow your affected arm or leg to fall off the side of your bed or the wheelchair.

Last Updated: June 30, 2009

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