Tragedy Pushed Artificial Limb Technology Forward
The rudimentary science of prosthetics began to evolve during the WWI and WWII era when war injuries pushed the field further. For example, a wooden prosthetic hand would have a moveable thumb, forefinger, and middle finger to grasp objects. Manufacturers also began to paint them or otherwise craft them to look more “lifelike.”
Unfortunately, many of the advancements in artificial limb technology came about as a result of tragic circumstances. In the 1960s, for instance, land mines maimed countless victims in developing nations. The “Jaipur foot” was developed in India, and to pardon the pun, it represented a big step forward. Light, durable, and comparatively inexpensive, it was more practical than other artificial feet previously available.
The 1960s also brought advancements in terms of movements. Some artificial arms were powered by canisters of carbon dioxide gas. By the 1980s, we saw prosthetics that were powered by electrodes. These stimulated the muscle and allowed for better movement.
A Shift Towards Natural Movement
As materials and technologies improved, artificial limbs began to focus not so much on appearing natural as moving naturally. The revolutionary iwalk BiOM - the first foot made to mimic the function of a real human foot - mimicked the bone and soft tissue movements, provided precise energy, and quite accurately replicated the movement of the ankle and foot. Its creator, MIT professor Hugh Herr (himself a double amputee) says that users have “told me that it feels like they have their ankle back.”
With technologies like onboard microprocessors and implants that are placed in the sensory system to control nerve action, people with artificial limbs can achieve much more freedom of motion, control, stability, and balance. Not unimportantly, they are also much more comfortable to wear.
While war and catastrophe spurred great innovation when it comes to artificial limbs, people who live with limb loss also deserve a great deal of credit. It is due in large part to consumer demands that science and technology have advanced to the point where we are now - and will continue to do so into the future. It is a testament to the drive and determination of not only the scientific community but to amputees themselves.
With artificial limbs, it is possible to work in your chosen field, enjoy your family, be an active member of your community, participate in your favorite activities - and try new ones! - all while living your best life.
If you have questions about artificial limbs, please do not hesitate to contact Orthopedic Appliance Company. Prosthetics have come a long way from their beginnings - and you will go a long way with a customized, comfortable artificial limb.