24 Hour Positioning:
Should I be thinking about this for my client?
Before we can answer this question, we first need to make sure we understand what 24-hour positioning is. I briefly discussed this last week as 24-hour positioning will be one of the main 3 themes you hear about this year throughout our weekly blog posts.
Let’s think about a circle, clock, or a pie. Now, let’s break this clock up into 24 hours instead of the typical 12. Think about how much time you spent on each surface you sat, stood, or laid down on. How many hours were you sitting at your desk? How many hours were you laying in your bed over the last 24 hours?
Now let’s think about this clock for your client. How many hours does your client spend on the bed each day? What about their wheelchair or their favourite sofa? Maybe their clock would like this this:
What does this mean and why does it matter to us? It is important for us as a therapist and every team member involved in the procurement of complex rehab technology to be involved in the appropriate selection of this equipment.
Many if not most of our clients have decreased or limited mobility and/or sensation. This means that they are at a risk of skin breakdown. It also means that they may not be able to maintain a neutral posture, and without proper positioning the client may end up with postural asymmetries. These asymmetries such as scoliosis and pelvic obliquities can put the client at further risk of skin breakdown but can also affect their functional independence. Let’s think about an example. Imagine that you never had a back to your chair that you sat in at work. Would you sit up straight throughout your day or do you slowly allow your spine to curve and end up with some thoracic kyphosis?
For me, I constantly find myself “slouching” or going into a thoracic kyphosis throughout my day. Now, what happens if I didn’t have strong enough muscles in my trunk to fix my posture? I would be stuck in that “slouching” position for hours of my day and eventually over time my muscles would get tighter and that “slouching” position would be my new normal position. The cycle would continue to progress until perhaps my posture was bad enough to start causing me pain and a cascade of other impairments. This is what can happen to our clients if they are not properly positioned throughout their entire 24-hour day and it is not just with sitting. We can think about how even the positioning in bed can potentially have more of an impact than the wheelchair that the client is only sitting in. What if the client is in their bed for 8-12 hours a day and only 4-5 hours a day are spent in their wheelchair? Have we thought about how they are positioned in their bed? My favourite example to think about for bed positioning is the neck and head. Many times, our clients will have 3-4 pillows under their head for comfort, but what happens to the position of their neck? Now, some of the clients may need this positioning for medical management, but if the client is safe to have less pillows, we want to keep the neck closer to neutral. I see numerous clients that have pain in their neck and forward head position limiting both their vision and functional independence, but perhaps it is not just the position in the wheelchair that is the issue. Perhaps instead it is that the client needs changes to their positioning in the bed first.
We will continue to explore the topic of 24-hour positioning, but I hope you finish this blog today with the idea that positioning on every surface matters. It is crucial for us as part of the team to consider every surface that our client is on throughout their day and how their position on that surface can impact not just their positioning, but also their well-being, participation, and independence.