Have you ever wondered if your TV-watching habit could lead to the development of bedsores? While it may sound far-fetched, there is concern that prolonged periods of inactivity, such as binge-watching your favorite show for hours and hours, could put you at risk for this painful and potentially dangerous condition.
But fear not because there are ways to prevent bedsores if you risk developing this condition. In this article, we will explore the link between bedsores and TV watching, how to prevent them, and provide some tips on staying active and comfortable while enjoying your screen time. So, grab your popcorn and get ready to learn how to avoid bed sores without sacrificing your favorite pastime.
Can Watching Too Much TV Cause Bedsores?
Let’s get this right off the bat – no, it is impossible to get bed sores from watching too much TV. Bedsores, also known as pressure ulcers or decubitus ulcers, occur when there is prolonged pressure on a particular area of the body, often due to remaining in the same position for a long period of time, such as when someone is bedridden or wheelchair-bound.
Watching too much TV, even for extended periods of time, is unlikely to cause the sustained pressure necessary to develop bed sores. However, spending long periods of time sitting or lying down without moving can still cause discomfort, stiffness, and other physical health issues, including weight gain and poor circulation.
It is essential to take regular breaks, stretch, and engage in physical activity to maintain good health and avoid the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle.
But if you are in a condition that can make you immobile, like being bedridden, bound in a wheelchair, or palliative care, staying in the same position while watching TV may cause bedsores.
Causes of Bedsores
Bedsores – also called pressure sores, pressure ulcers, or decubitus ulcers – happen if you can’t move around and so stay in one position for a long time. Normally, a person moves about and changes position constantly, even while sleeping. This prevents pressure sores from developing.
But people who cannot move around tend to place pressure on the same areas of their bodies for a long time. If you’re bedridden, ill, or in a wheelchair, you’re at risk of getting pressure sores. There are a number of things that can increase the risk of bedsores, such as:
- Being unable to move around due to being bedridden or in a wheelchair
- Being unable to move easily due to old age or illness
- Sliding down the bed or chair constantly
- Friction or rubbing of the skin
- Poor diet
- Weight loss (less fat means less padding over bony areas)
- Moist skin due to incontinence or sweating
- Medical conditions like diabetes
- Having a previous bedsore
How to Prevent Bedsores
If you, a senior family member, or any loved one is at risk of developing bedsores, here are some things you can do to prevent it from happening:
1. Get moving
Engaging in physical activity, such as exercise, ambulation, and range of motion exercises, can enhance circulation, effectively preventing pressure sore formation. However, simply transitioning from bed to a wheelchair may not be enough, as prolonged sitting in a wheelchair can lead to pressure sores on the hip, tailbone, shoulders, or heels.
Therefore, it is essential to promote diversity in the movement. While wheelchairs may be necessary, it is advisable to assist seniors in getting into more comfortable chairs, such as recliners, to avoid prolonged sitting in one position. Additionally, it is crucial to reposition seniors periodically while lying down or awake during the day to prevent pressure sores from forming.
2. Relieve pressure frequently
To prevent pressure ulcers in bed-bound patients, turning them frequently is crucial. It helps in alternating pressure areas on bony regions such as the hips, lower back, elbows, and heels. It is advisable to turn your loved one every two hours, laying them flat on their back and alternating between right and left sides.
However, setting an alarm clock to wake up every couple of hours is unnecessary if you and your loved one sleep comfortably. If your loved one wakes you up at night, take the opportunity to turn them, and to avoid confusion, use a soft cotton wristband to mark the side they should be turned to next.
3. Use specialty beddings, pillows, or materials to help reduce pressure
In addition to repositioning them frequently, using a special surface to reduce and relieve pressure can help a lot.
Pillows can be incredibly useful when positioning your loved one in bed, such as placing one between the knees when they’re on their side or under their back to prop them on their side. Pillows can add comfort and reduce pressure on bony regions. Even if your loved one spends most of the day in a recliner chair, it is still essential to reposition them periodically to relieve pressure. Using a folded draw sheet under them while sitting can make this task easier, and slightly shifting their weight by changing the degree of recline can help redistribute body weight.
Specialty bedding or materials such as water or air mattress toppers, cushioned padding like heel protectors, and memory foam pillows can help in this regard. Additionally, soft wedges can be used to keep seniors on their sides while lying in bed between repositioning times.
It is essential to keep the options open for what works best for each individual’s needs. Automatic turning beds may suggest an easy solution, but they should be used in conjunction with manual repositioning for better results.
Egg crate mattresses and chair pads can be used to distribute pressure more evenly, and air mattress overlays can alternate air pressure in various columns. However, these devices don’t replace frequent repositioning.
Fluidized air mattresses are the most effective in relieving pressure but have downsides. The mattress frame makes it difficult to transfer to and from the bed, and a foam wedge may need to be used for back support when sitting up. These mattresses are best suited for palliative care patients with severe pressure ulcers who are fully bed-bound and in a lot of pain.
4. Reduce friction and shear
Friction occurs when the skin rubs against a surface, such as bed sheets. To reduce friction and protect the most commonly affected areas, you can use protective devices like heel and elbow cradles made of egg-crate material with Velcro fastenings. Skin-protecting dressings, like films and thin hydrocolloid bandages, can also help but won’t reduce pressure.
When repositioning your loved one, make sure you don’t create any friction yourself. Use a draw sheet to lift and reposition them.
Shear is an injury that occurs when the deeper tissues and blood vessels are damaged due to a combination of friction and gravity. To avoid this injury, avoid keeping your loved one in a semi-Fowler or upright position in bed for extended periods. If necessary, raise the foot of the bed and use pillows to prop up the knees.
Shear injury can also occur in chairs. To prevent this, use footstools or ottomans to prop up their feet and use pillows or special devices to keep their hips at a 90-degree angle and prevent sliding down in the chair.
5. Keep the skin clean and dry
Maintaining dry and clean skin is essential to prevent pressure sores, especially in seniors with limited mobility or incontinence. Exposure to urine and feces can cause damage to the skin due to the acids and enzymes present in them. A Stage I pressure sore can occur when the perineal area becomes reddened, indicating more intense pressure on the skin. In such cases, using a barrier cream can help prevent further damage, but continued repositioning is necessary.
Frequently changing clothing, sheets, and adult diapers is required to manage moisture. Hospital gowns and easy-to-slip-on clothing can make this task easier. Skin barrier creams can also help prevent damage from urine. Indwelling Foley catheters may be placed in high-risk cases to keep the skin free from urine, with a physician’s order and the assistance of a nurse.
Bowel incontinence poses a high risk of skin breakdown due to the presence of bacteria and digestive enzymes. Cleaning and changing the patient as soon as possible after every bowel movement is crucial to prevent skin breakdown. This may be challenging in cases of frequent bowel movements or diarrhea, but it is necessary to avoid painful skin damage.
6. Eat a healthy diet
Encourage seniors and people at risk of developing bedsores to consume a healthy diet to ensure the delivery of essential nutrients to their bodies. A well-balanced diet is vital for people with pressure sores to facilitate effective treatment. In addition to preventing or promoting the healing of pressure sores, a healthy diet can also benefit people with metabolic disorders like diabetes.
Maintaining proper nutrition to reduce the risk of pressure ulcers is crucial, as there is a strong link between nutritional deficiencies and this condition. Offer nutrient-dense foods like lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables if your loved one has an appetite. You can also provide supplements to boost their nutrient intake if their appetite is lacking. However, when it comes to palliative care patients, it’s important to avoid forcing them to eat.
7. Manage chronic conditions
Effective management of chronic health conditions is crucial in preventing pressure sores from developing or worsening. Poor circulation that results from any condition affecting the cardiovascular system can increase the risk of pressure sores. Therefore, it is essential to monitor fluid intake for those with heart failure, maintain dietary restrictions for seniors with kidney disease, and ensure that medication interactions do not lead to poor circulatory function.
How to Stay Active While Watching TV
If you do not have (or only have little) mobility problems, you can prevent bedsores and other negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle by staying active. Especially if you’re a senior, physical health and cognitive functions are in decline – and if you’re filling up all your time with TV, it can cause adverse effects on your health. While risk factors differ from person to person, nearly all seniors are at risk for developing pressure sores.
If you’re a couch potato, you can still make a little effort to stay active. Here are some easy ways:
1. Stretch during commercial breaks
Some channels, especially free ones, come with regular commercials that last for a few minutes. Take that time as an opportunity to stretch or do a quick warm-up before you start your real exercise.
If you’re watching YouTube on your smart TV and don’t have YouTube Premium, you are likely forced to deal with constant ad breaks. However, you can use it to your advantage. Some ads are pretty long so that you can squeeze in a compressed workout session before the video resumes.
2. Do squats and lunges
Squats and lunges are perfect exercises to do in front of the TV as they can be done without disrupting your viewing. The great thing about them is that they can strengthen your core, tone your lower body, work for several muscle groups, and improve your balance when done correctly.
3. Use the hula hoop
Hula hooping is an easy-to-do exercise that can be done while watching TV, as it involves repetitive movements that don’t require much focus. Despite its simplicity, hula hooping provides significant physical advantages. Using a weighted hoop while hula hooping can burn up to 100 calories in just 10 minutes and contribute to shaping the waistline and strengthening the abdominal muscles.
4. Perform yoga
Practicing yoga is a versatile exercise that can be done virtually anywhere, be it in your living room or at a fitness studio. Yoga is ideal for enhancing body strength, flexibility, and balance. Although you may not experience the same emotional and stress-reducing advantages as you would during a dedicated yoga session, incorporating yoga poses into your TV time can be an effective way to stay active.
5. Invest in home gym equipment
The exercise machines commonly found in the gym can also be used at home. Consider purchasing an exercise bike, treadmill, or rowing machine for your home gym, as they can be used while watching TV. These machines are ideal for cardiovascular workouts when you don’t want to leave your house and can help you burn calories.
6. Sit in a stability ball
Consider swapping your sofa with a stability ball for an added calorie burn during TV time. By sitting on a stability ball, your body will have to work harder to maintain balance, and you’ll find yourself adjusting your position more frequently, which will keep you moving. This type of seating also engages your core muscles and has the potential to enhance lower back pain and balance.
If you’re not up for a workout, you can still burn calories by engaging in fidgeting. According to research, fidgeting can burn an extra 350 calories per day. To increase calorie burn while watching TV, consider incorporating more incidental exercise, such as getting up to change the channel instead of using the remote control. You could also engage in another activity while watching TV, like knitting, sewing, or typing on your laptop, to further boost your calorie burn.
8. Do household chores while you watch
If you’re always busy with housework, get the job done while watching your favorite show while burning calories at the same time. It’s like killing three birds with one stone! Humdrum chores like sweeping, mopping, doing the laundry, and general tidying are easy to tick off your to-do list while catching up on your favorite Netflix series.
9. Keep snacks healthy
In addition to staying physically active while watching TV, it is crucial to pay attention to your eating habits. People often have a habit of mindlessly eating while watching TV, which may lead to overeating. A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that distracted eating can cause people to ignore their body’s fullness signals. To avoid snacking temptations, it’s helpful to engage in another activity while watching TV or choose healthy snacks such as popcorn, fresh fruit, or hummus with vegetable crudités.