Answering Five Questions from New Amputees

Monday, 28 October 2019 09:37

Becoming an amputee is one of the most challenging things someone could possibly experience. It is a process for which few would plan. Whether you are an adult adjusting to this new phase of life, or you are a parent trying to figure out how to provide your child with the most about of support possible, you probably have a lot of questions. Fortunately, there are more resources than ever for answering your questions.

In this guide, we are discussing five of the most common questions we have heard in our sixty years of providing amputees with prosthetic limbs:

  1. Will I experience phantom limb pain?
  2. Does getting a prosthetic hurt?
  3. What will be my biggest challenges?
  4. How long will it take to get back to normal?
  5. Where can I find ongoing support?

If this does not answer all of your questions, please contact us. We will be happy to help you any way we can, especially through the process of being fitted for your artificial limb.

 

1) Will I Experience Phantom Limb Pain?

One of the top concerns for amputees or people facing amputation is the possibility of experiencing phantom limb pain. Phantom limb pain (PLP) is pain, pressure, or some other sensation that occurs seemingly in the space the limb once was. It is thought to be caused by confusion in the signals from your spinal cord and brain. About 80% of amputees do end up with some version of phantom limb pain.[1]

Generally, PLP is most common during the first six months after your surgery; however, some version can continue or reoccur for many years. Treatment for these sensations range from medicine to physical therapy. Many are embarrassed and hesitant to mention PLP to their medical teams, but with a variety of causes and treatments, it is important to tell your doctors and keep detailed notes about it. Your notes may include:

  • Where you were when it began
  • Who you were with when it began
  • How long it lasted
  • If anything seemed to cause it
  • What you were eating, drinking, doing, etc.

Though it is likely recent amputations will lead to PLP, the key to minimizing the effects is communication with your healthcare and rehabilitation team. There are a lot of options and resources for managing your phantom limb sensations.

2) Does Getting a Prosthetic Limb Hurt?

There are more resources than ever for amputees navigating life after limb loss. Prosthetic devices have advanced significantly since Orthopedic Appliance Company began in 1960. Begin fit with and learning to use your artificial limb will be one of the most important steps you will take toward restoring a semblance of normalcy. However, one thing you or your child might be wondering is if getting a prosthetic limb hurts. The short answer is, generally, it should not. If you are experience pain with an artificial limb, there are several potential reasons, including:

  • Pain within the residual limb unrelated to the prosthetic device
  • Phantom limb pain
  • Especially for children, they may have outgrown the artificial limb
  • Using the device for something other than its intended purpose
  • Changes in the residual limb
  • The most likely reason: The prosthetic does not properly

There is no “one size fits all” in modern prosthetics. Every artificial limb is fabricated and customized for the unique physiology, capabilities and lifestyle aspirations of each person. For us, to ensure the best fit possible, we employ CAD/CAM technology to precisely map the patient’s residual limb, then create a total-contact socket that will provide the wearer optimal security and comfort with minimal energy expenditure. 

After a careful preparatory phase, working with your medical team, we create the definitive limb using based on many factors including:

  • The condition and weight-bearing ability of the residual limb 
  • The patient's overall state of health, activity level, vocational needs, and expectations
  • The most appropriate suspension (method of attaching the prosthesis to the residual limb) 
  • Specific components to be used, including socket, foot, pylon and (if applicable) knee unit for lower-limb applications... and socket, hand, wrist, elbow, and shoulder (as applicable) components for upper-limb systems.
  • Cosmetic finishing
  • Cost and funding

As with PLP, the key to effective recovery is communication. Make sure your doctors and physical therapists know what you want to accomplish with your artificial limb. If you are experiencing discomfort with your prosthetic, make sure everyone involved knows what you are feeling.

3) What Will Be My Biggest Challenges?

There is no doubt you will face significant challenges in adjusting to life with your prosthetic limb. Some key challenges include:

Physical Therapy: Your PT will likely be physically demanding and stretch you beyond your previous limits; however, it will also be one of the most important parts of your recovery process. You may come to enjoy this challenge and will likely embrace it as a key part of your life.

Relationships: You may find people treating you differently, especially at first. No two situations are the same, but over time you will help your friends and family understand how you want to be treated.

School: For children especially, returning to school may be a challenging transition. Chances are, they will want things to be as normal as possible. It is a good idea to visit the school before the child returns to identify potential difficulties:

  • Talk with teachers and administrators about your child’s unique situation
  • Determine whether your child needs extra help moving around
  • Make arrangements for getting between classes
  • Change lockers if there will be extra difficulty reaching supplies
  • Talk to coaches, band directors, and other extra-curricular facilitators

Be prepared for setbacks but be your child’s greatest encourager throughout the process of returning to school.

Self-Care and Routine: One of the most significant adjustments you will make is to your daily routine. Bathing, brushing your teeth, going to the bathroom, preparing meals, and exercising will all be different and more difficult. Your medical team will be able to help you with advice and steps to establish your new routine.

Restoring Confidence: This may be your greatest challenge; however, overcoming it will be your biggest reward. Treat eat accomplishment as a confidence suppling victory. As it grows, your recovery will gain momentum and advance exponentially.

Learning to use your new prosthetic device may be difficult as well. Orthopedic Appliance Company is here to help you gain confidence in your artificial limb.

How Long Will It Take to Get Back to Normal?

Every amputation is unique, so it is impossible to put a definite timeframe on recovery; however, you can generally expect to spend one to two weeks in the hospital and a few months to heal. Life, as you knew it, will be different. Your goal will be to establish a new normal with which you are comfortable – a routine that inspires confidence.

It may take several months or more to establish your new normal. In the meantime, your greatest allies toward this goal will be your friends, family, recovery team, and support resources.

Where Can I Find Ongoing Support?

There are support groups for people adjusting to life with an artificial limb in most cities and areas throughout the nation. Your doctors and team can help point you in the direction of groups that will be right for you. There will be people in every stage of recovery, with various levels and types of amputations, who help inspire confidence in each other.

If you have experienced an amputation and are ready to begin the process of developing your prosthetic device, Orthopedic Appliance Company is here to help. We have sixty years of experience helping people establish new normal with artificial limbs. We will work with your team to help you establish your new normal, gain confidence, and get moving with your new prosthetic device.

 

[1] https://www.amputee-coalition.org/limb-loss-resource-center/resources-for-pain-management/managing-phantom-pain/