How Can Cushions and Mattress Pads Help with Bed Sores?

Older people are more likely to suffer from bed sores, particularly those who have limited mobility and spend a lot of time lying down. The condition begins with their skin touching their beds and getting irritated from constant pressure. After a few days, the irritated area develops into pressure sores. It is due to the fact that the skin of older people is often thin and sensitive. Bed sores are painful and, if they are not cured or prevented, might lead to life-threatening infections. 

One of the best ways to prevent bed sores and pressure sores is to ensure that the older adult or patient does not stay in one position for a long period. For instance, if they are lying down, you need to make sure that they change position every hour or two. In addition to that, another way that may help prevent bed sores is through the use of cushions and mattress pads. 

Some might think that using an ordinary pillow or a regular cushion is enough. However, these are unable to relieve enough pressure. Therefore, investing in cushions and pads that are designed to prevent bed sores is important. But how do these differ from regular cushions, and how do you think they can help with bed sores? If you have the same question in mind, read on as we are giving you more information about the benefits of using cushions and mattress pads for bed sores.

What are Pressure Relief Cushions and Mattress Pads?

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Pressure relief cushions and mattress pads are made to protect individuals against pressure ulcers or bed sores. These products provide support for the head and body, and it redistributes the weight of a person, reducing the amount of pressure applied to any single part of the body. [1]  

A pressure relief mattress is used to relieve and redistribute pressure. When this is done, the friction and shearing are reduced, which then prevents the development of bed sores. Pressure relief mattresses and pillows that reduce and redistribute pressure are highly helpful for people who spend a lot of time in bed, as well as those who can’t adjust themselves in bed freely because continual pressure can cause skin injury. [1]  

Aside from the prevention of bed sores, pressure relief cushions and mattress pads are also used by those who have already developed pressure ulcers. This way, they can prevent the worsening of the condition and help in the healing and recovery of the affected skin.

If you are caring for a patient or loved one who spends most of their time in bed, you might also benefit from using overbed tables. You may learn more about these by reading our Guide to Buying Overbed Tables.

Different Types of Pressure Relief Cushions and Mattress Pads

In reactive therapy, pressure-relieving cushions and mattresses either mechanically disperse a patient’s weight over a vast contact area, or they do so in reactive therapy while altering the pressure beneath the patient to lessen the severity and duration of pressure.

There are low-tech mattresses like air, foam, and gel, which do not provide adjustable pressure. On the other hand, there are pressure-adjustable high-tech mattresses that can be inflated or deflated in order to adjust the pressure. All of these work in various ways and meet the different needs of patients. [1] Read on to learn more about the different types of pressure relief cushions and mattress pads.

Gel Cushions and Mattress Pads

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This type of cushion and mattress pad is non-powered and conforms to the body of the user. It provides the sensation of sinking deeply into a mattress. Gel cushions and mattress pads retain less body heat, providing a cooler sleeping surface compared to other materials. A gel mattress has a more responsive feel on its own, and customers typically say they had a nice night’s sleep on one.

For patients who are less likely to develop pressure ulcers or who just have shallow bed sores, gel cushions and mattress pads are ideal. Most of the time, gel mattress pads are not 100% gel as they are comprised of other materials, too. However, keep in mind that gel cushions and mattress pads do not actively relieve pressure. This means that they are not suitable for patients who are at high risk for developing bed sores or for patients who have existing deeper than shallow pressure ulcers. [1] 

Foam Cushions and Mattress Pads

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These are also low-tech static cushions and mattresses that can be cross-cut. They allow the cells of the mattress to shift along with the body of the patient, offering partial immersion and envelopment. It reduces the chances of the outer layer of skin tearing when the patient moves. Foam cushions and mattress pads provide reactive therapy. They apply constant lower pressure to the skin and tissues until the patient is repositioned. 

These cushions and mattress pads are great for patients who have a low-level risk of developing a pressure sore or those who have only superficial bed sores. However, foam cushions and mattress pads do not treat bed sores but only aid in prevention. They also tend to hold body heat and create a hotter sleep surface. [1] 

Hybrid Gel/Foam Cushions and Mattress Pads

These cushions and mattress pads are made with foam and air. They can either be powered or non-powered. Non-powered ones provide reactive therapy, which is similar to what is provided by foam mattresses. On the other hand, powered hybrid pressure-relieving mattresses provide some active therapy but do not offer the same level of pressure relief compared to alternating pressure air mattresses.

This sort of cushion and mattress pad can be designed with foam either above the air cells or enclosed within the individual air cells. Patients who already have bed sores or who are at high risk of developing pressure sores should use them. However, they are more expensive and quite heavy to move. [1] 

Low Air Loss Cushions and Mattress Pads

These are sometimes called LAL mattresses. They are powered mattresses that are made for patients who are suffering from skin breakdown. This type of pressure relief mattress helps heal pressure sores that have already developed. Air loss mattresses deliver active therapy and have a pump or compressor running at all times to push air through small laser-drilled holes in the top of the mattress. These help keep the patient comfortable and cool.

The best thing about this type of cushion or mattress pad is that they can be used to treat stage 1 to stage 4 bed sores. However, they need to be connected to a power supply at all times, and they make noise that may inhibit sleep. [1] 

Alternating Pressure Cushions and Mattress Pads

These are pressure mattresses that are powered with air bladders. They slowly deflate and inflate, followed by an adjacent bladder deflating and re-inflating. This type of pressure relief mattress run in cycles, often taking about ten minutes to go through all the bladders from one end of the bed to the other. It is effectively used to prevent skin breakdown. 

These cushions and mattress pads are programmable for patient comfort. However, they require higher horsepower pumps, which may cost more. Also, like low air loss mattresses, they also make noise and inhibit sleep. [1] 

Low Air Loss with Alternating Pressure Cushions and Mattress Pads

Mattresses that are powered by low air loss with alternating pressure can help prevent and treat skin pressure injuries via two therapy modes. One is alternating the deflation of every third cell during the programmable cycle time. The other therapy is static low air loss, which keeps the skin dry and cool by managing the microclimate and moisture. 

This type of pressure relief mattress provides two therapies in one mattress. However, it can only be used for hospital beds and will not fit a standard bed. It also requires an electrical source at all times. [1]  

Benefits of Using Cushions and Mattress Pads

Satisfied middle-aged woman lying in bed enjoy early morning

There are various ways to help prevent and relieve bed sores and other pressure-related pain. You can use different pressure relief products, such as pressure relief cushions and mattresses. They work by redistributing weight to other, less vulnerable parts of the body. They are available in all shapes and sizes and can replace or enhance an existing cushion. 

Pressure relief cushions are quite popular as they are easy to transport and can be used on different beds as well as seating surfaces. To make them even more comfortable, these products are specially adapted in different ways:


In case of accidents, most pressure relief cushions and mattresses are waterproof. This makes them easy to clean when they get wet or damaged. [2]


Pressure relief cushions are made using lightweight materials, making them easy to transport. Often, they are made using gel and foam or a combination of both. [2] 


Pressure relief cushions and mattresses are made from different materials to cater to various needs. A lot of manufacturers choose to create pressure relief cushions from memory foam because their heat sensitivity and body-forming qualities make it super comfortable. [2]  

Below are some of the different benefits and uses of pressure relief cushions and mattress pads for bed sores:

Bed Sore Prevention

Pressure sores are regions of skin injury brought on by spending too much time in one position. They frequently appear on bony areas, including the ankles, back, elbows, heels, and hips. Maintaining dry and clean skin, switching postures to release pressure, and utilizing items designed to relieve the pressure are all part of prevention. Prevention is crucial because advanced sores can take a while to cure. If bedsores do appear, releasing pressure from the area promotes a favorable environment for healing. [1] Therefore, using pressure relief cushions and mattresses is beneficial when it comes to the prevention of bed sores.

Best for Bedridden Patients

Pressure sores can result in serious and possibly even life-threatening infections in people who are bedridden, unable to move, unconscious, or otherwise unable to feel discomfort. Mattresses with pressure relief prevent areas that are constantly under pressure from becoming immobile or bedridden. [1] 

If you are look for other ways to treat bed sores, you may also read our article on Treatment for Bed Sores on Buttocks – The Complete Guide.

Things to Consider when Choosing Pressure Relief Cushions and Mattress Pads

There are various kinds, sizes, and designs of mattress pads and cushions available in the market today. With this, choosing the best one that will suit the needs of a patient with bed sores can be challenging. To help you, below are some of the important things you need to consider in order to get the best one:

Size and Fit

A lot of mattresses and pads for bed sores are available today, which are compatible with hospital beds. However, it can be quite difficult to find one that will fit your bed at home. Therefore, before you buy a pressure relief mattress or pad, it is essential to check the size and fit first to ensure that it will fit perfectly to the bed where you wish to use it.

Additional Health Features

Pressure relief cushions and mattress pads are made to prevent bed sores. But there are also some products that offer additional health features. Some examples are those that offer zones on the top and bottom to prevent friction on the skin, which aids in the prevention and treatment of bed sores. 

Patient’s Weight

Bariatric patients may find it difficult to adjust their posture in bed if either the bed is too small or they are not physically mobile enough to do so. A high-tech electronic pressure relief mattress that automatically repositions a patient relieves the patient and caregiver of the physical strain of changing positions. [1] 

Level of Pressure Ulcer Risk

Reactive therapy mattresses that disperse weight across a large contact area can help patients who are at low risk for pressure ulcers or who have early-stage or shallow skin breakdown stop the development or worsening of bedsores. Active therapy to change the pressure beneath the patient and mechanically distribute the patient’s weight over a larger contact area provided by high-tech adjustable mattresses is the better option for patients who are more likely to develop pressure ulcers or who already have deeper staged wounds. [1] 

Amount of Time Spent in Bed

A pressure ulcer can develop in anyone who spends the majority of the day in bed, especially if they are not very mobile. This is because a bed sore can develop when the blood flow to the skin is interrupted for more than two to three hours. The likelihood that someone will acquire skin problems increases the longer they are confined to bed. [1] 

Price and Quality

There are many pressure relief cushions and mattress pads that can provide patients great comfort but are usually expensive. However, the price of a product is not always the basis when it comes to quality. It’s because there are also many products out there that come at a lower price but may also provide the same comfort as the more expensive ones. Therefore, when looking for a pressure relief cushion or mattress pad, make sure that you look into its features and quality and not the price.   


Using a pressure relief cushion or a mattress pad is indeed beneficial to prevent bed sores or to help treat them. They are especially useful for those who are at higher risk, particularly patients who are immobile and spend most of their time lying in bed. We hope this post helped you learn more about how cushions and mattress pads help with bed sores.

You can also check out our Guide to the Different Types of Mattress Technologies for more tips when it comes to choosing the right mattress for your needs.

In addition to cushions and mattress pads, there are also other treatments for bedsores, which you can learn more about in our Guide for Picking the Right Treatments for Bed Sores.


[1] Smith, M. (2022). How to choose the best pressure relief mattress. Retrieved December 19, 2022, from

[2] Bainbridge, L. (2017, April 19). The advantages of pressure cushions for the elderly. Beaucare Medical Ltd. Retrieved December 19, 2022, from