What is a pressure relief mattress
Pressure relief mattresses are designed to relieve pressure from your skin to prevent bed sores from developing. Bed sores (pressure sores) result from long periods of being in the same position. For a person with limited mobility, a significant amount of time is spent is spent in bed, meaning a mattress can be your biggest friend of foe in providing comfort and pressure relief. It is extremely important to choose the right mattress for your needs.
There are three different types of pressure relieving mattresses; foam mattresses, airflow mattresses, and combination mattresses.
The different types of pressure mattress
Foam pressure mattresses
Foam pressure mattresses come in various types and combinations of foam designed to relieve pressure form the skin. Foams will vary, the ones that offer the most relief are usually reflected in the price of the mattress. Foam mattresses are best suited to preventing ulcers for those with limited mobility. If you/your loved one spends long hours on the mattress surface, regular turning and repositioning needs to take place to prevent pressure build up.
Airflow (alternating) pressure mattresses
Airflow mattresses are made up of a row of alternating air cells that are powered by a pump unit. A standard alternating pressure mattress is a series of air cells that inflate and deflate alternately. An air pump is used to inflate and deflate the cells, providing movement across the user’s skin. The air cells that are inflated support the user whilst the deflated air cells provide total pressure relief to the skin above them. The air pump then inflates the deflated cells and deflates the inflated cells, ensuring the whole body experiences movement and periods of no pressure.
Alternating air pressure mattresses are typically used to heal pressure ulcers. They reduce the need for manual repositioning and provide consistent pressure relief. The more severe the ulcer is, the more specialist the mattress will need to be. Like foam mattresses, price will usually dictate the mattress’ capability, but it is important that you are confident that the mattress you are buying will effectively provide the care you are looking for.
Combination pressure mattresses
Combination pressure mattresses are, as the name suggests, a combination of air cells and foam. Usually they consist of a row of alternating air cells that are located inside a foam mattress body. The air cells are pumped to provide a dynamic surface for high levels of pressure relief, and the mattress is normally topped with a pressure relieving foam that envelopes the user for pressure redistribution and for comfort. Combination mattresses are a great option if you find alternating mattresses uncomfortable but need the pressure relieving properties that they give.
Low air loss mattresses
Like an airflow mattress, low air loss pressure mattresses are made up of air cells, however they do not alternate. Instead, the air cells have micro-perforations that provide very low interface pressure, meaning that the user effectively hovers just above the mattress surface, ensuring extreme pressure relief. They provide a constant flow of cool dry air to reduce heat and perspiration on the skin, accelerating the healing of pressure sores. Thes mattresses are very specialist and are usually found in hospitals.
Overlay vs replacement
An overlay mattress is a shallow depth mattress that is designed to be used on existing mattresses. They are usually about 4” in depth and are laid on top of an existing mattress. They are ideal if you are not at high risk of developing a pressure ulcer, have an existing mattress that you wish to keep using, and are looking for a lower cost option. The overlay provides pressure care qualities whilst the existing mattress provides a base for comfort and depth.
A full replacement mattress is a pressure mattress that is only to be used as a stand-alone unit. They are capable of providing pressure care and comfort without a base and are usually 7-10” deep. Full replacement mattresses are focused purely on providing pressure relief which means they are better performers at providing pressure care, particularly for higher risk users.