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Managing Phantom Limb Pain
Learning to Walk with a Prosthetic Leg
Your prosthesis is an important new part of your body. It is a sophisticated tool, designed to enhance your independence, activity level, and mobility. As you gain experience using your prosthesis, you will become more and more dependent on this tool. Decide right now to follow some basic guidelines for keeping it in good working order. Remember, it is a mechanical device, and as such, it will sometimes require maintenance or repair. By visiting your clinician at least once a year, potential problems can often be detected and then corrected before your prosthesis breaks or becomes unusable. It’s also a great opportunity to discuss the new technologies and upgrades that become available.
Your prosthesis is customized specifically to you and your individual needs. Putting on your prosthesis is called “donning.” In donning, it is important for the surface of the residual limb not to wrinkle or bunch in a way that will cause skin damage. Your Hanger Clinic prosthetist will show you the best technique for donning your specific prosthesis and will also recommend helpful donning items such as pull socks, powder and other types of liners.Wearing your prosthesis and increasing your activity level are two important goals. Your prosthetist will give you a schedule that gradually increases the amount of time you wear your prosthesis. Your schedule will depend on your specific situation; however people typically start with a couple of hours each day, and over the course of a few weeks, progress up to wearing their prosthesis all day. Trying to be too active too soon can create problems like skin irritation and soreness. You can avoid unnecessary complications by closely following the schedule your prosthetist gives you. Wearing your prosthesis for extended periods of time is a longer-term goal that is achieved gradually. Conversely, if you don’t wear your prosthesis enough, other problems can develop, slowing down your progress towards becoming a fulltime prosthetic user. Important Tips
Your Hanger Clinic prosthetist may recommend that you wear a prosthetic sock or cushioning gel liner as a protective layer over the residual limb. Prosthetic socks are measured by their thickness or “ply”, starting at 1-ply and going up to about 6-ply. As the volume of your residual limb decreases over the course of each day, additional layers or plies of socks can be added to keep the socket fitting snugly. For example, if you are currently wearing a 3-ply sock with a 1-ply sock over it (4-ply total) and the socket is loose, you many either add an additional 1-ply sock or remove all socks and replace them with one, 5-ply sock. For some people, multiple plies of socks may limit their ability to feel the limb inside the socket. If you have concerns, call your prosthetist to discuss the situation, and schedule an appointment for an evaluation.
As a new prosthetic user, you are engaged in a process of rehabilitation that involves a team of key people. You will work closely with your physician, prosthetist, physical/occupational therapist, and others to increase your mobility and your independence. Your Hanger Clinic prosthetist will play a key role in your life from this point forward, guiding you on issues related to health, mobility, and overall quality of life. Rely on them as your best resource for answers, guidance and information. Physical therapy will allow you to learn how to use your new prosthesis correctly and in a safe environment. Over the course of your lifetime you are likely to use several different prostheses. Each time you receive a new prosthesis, always rely on a round of physical therapy to help you make the most of your new limb. People such as other prosthetic users, friends and family can play important support roles in your rehabilitation. Peer support is a vital part of your rehabilitation, and is especially important if you are feeling discouraged. Ask your prosthetist to connect you with other new amputees and prosthetic users.
Interested in learning more about caring for your limb or prosthesis? Call 1-877-4HANGER or visit this page to request more information.