The Comprehensive Guide for Navigating the Holidays With Limb Loss

The Comprehensive Guide for Navigating the Holidays With Limb Loss

Tuesday, 09 November 2021 09:36

It is officially the holiday season in Asheville. As the final leaves of autumn fall from the trees, they are replaced with lights and decorations. This season is a time for area residents to be grateful for their family, friends, and living in such a beautiful region. 

Many will enjoy the holidays here in western North Carolina, while others will travel all over the country. This can also be a stressful season for many. 


Some of the key causes of holiday stress include:

  • 45% of Americans would skip the holidays altogether to avoid the stress.
  • The holidays are seen as the most stressful period of the year by over 88 percent of respondents.
  • This time of year, 56% of individuals say money causes them stress during the holidays.
  • 50% of people find it difficult to select the perfect gift for their friends and family.
  • Approximately a third of people find gathering with family to be stressful during the holidays.
  • The stress of putting up decorations affects 29% of people.

If you are traveling this holiday season, you may find yourself dealing with stress from all sorts of challenges. Busy airports, delayed flights, traffic jams, and tight schedules are all part of the travel experience during Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. It can be even more stressful if you are navigating airplanes or highways with an artificial limb. 

The team at Orthopedic Appliance Company wants you to have the happiest, healthiest, and most mobile holiday season possible. We have, therefore, compiled this ultimate guide to navigating the holidays for people who have experienced limb loss.

holiday travel stress

Why Are the Holidays Challenging for Those With Limb Loss?

The holiday season can be a struggle for everyone, but there are challenges specific to those who have a prosthetic device. These challenges include:

  • Family and Friends: It is not the way strangers interact with us that affects us - it’s our friends and family. If you have experienced a recent amputation or you are seeing family for the first time since your limb loss experience, you may be anxious about how they might react. 
  • Traveling: During the holidays, it feels like everyone is traveling. That means driving and flying are even more stressful than usual. Add to that the challenges you might face transporting an artificial limb, and it can seem overwhelming.
  • Lack of Routine: Establishing a routine is one of the most important things you can do following an amputation. Traveling during the holidays can throw you off of your routine. 
  • Winter Weather: From the way the cold can affect old injuries to the challenge of traveling during inclement weather, the holidays often usher in some of the trickiest weather of the year.
  • Overdoing It: It is easy to over-commit during this time of year. If not managed carefully, your time and energy can be overextended, leading to fatigue and stress. 

These challenges do not have to stop you from having an amazing holiday season. The solution is to be mindful of them and plan accordingly. 

Tips for Navigating Common Holiday Challenges for People With Limb Loss

We have written about traveling with your artificial limb in more detail in a previous article, but we want to summarize some of the tips here:

Prepare Your Friends and Family

If you have limb difference, you can be the one to help establish how you would like to be treated. Schedule phone calls and video calls with some of the extended family you haven’t seen in a while. Allow them to ask questions and tell them what you do and do not want to hear.

You can also point people to this resource we wrote about how to support someone with limb loss. This article includes some things to avoid saying. 

tips for traveling

Tips for Traveling

We have written about traveling with an artificial limb in more detail here. Some of the key tips include:

1) Address Your Accommodations 

Your housing will not be set up the same as your home, whether you are staying in a hotel, vacation rental, or with family.

Before you pack for your trip, find out as much as you can about your accommodations. Knowing what will be available to you and what you will need to bring with you will be really useful as you attempt to feel as at home as possible. If you're able, tell your host about what you need. They will likely be happy to help.

2) Getting Through the Airport

Traveling by air is especially difficult during the holiday season. There are some ways you can make it easier on yourself if you’re flying this year:

  • Avoid the busiest airport days. 
  • Arrive thirty minutes to an hour earlier than usual. 
  • Fly with someone who can assist you with luggage. 
  • Select an aisle seat (and an exit row) online before your flight, or request one at check-in. 
  • Know your rights with TSA.

3) Tips for Road Trips During the Holidays

If you are driving during the holidays, here are a few key tips:

  • Remember to give yourself extra time for traffic. 
  • Prepare to take some breaks to stretch.
  • If at all possible, avoid driving on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the Sunday following Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, or New Year’s Eve. 
  • Be prepared to slow down during inclement weather.

4) Pay Attention to the Weather

Pay close attention to the weather forecast for your departure location, your destination, and the places in between. If you are flying and have a layover, you do not want to be stuck in the airport if flights get canceled or delayed. 

For road tripping during the holidays, make sure you avoid getting stranded on the road if at all possible. 

Make Sure Your Artificial Limb Has Been Properly Maintained and Prepared for Winter

We have written more extensively about artificial limb maintenance here. As the temperatures drop and snow and ice are a threat, you want your prosthetic device to be in the best condition possible. This is not the time of year to be dealing with loose bolts, poor fit, and other concerns. 

Your residual limb may need extra attention this time of year as well, especially if you are traveling. You are going to want to make sure you are not dealing with dry skin, irritation, swelling, and other weather-related challenges while you are flying or driving. 

Contact your doctor if there is excess pain or discomfort during the cold months. 

Ask Your Doctors and Rehabilitation Team for Advice on How Much You Should Do

Your recovery is a continuous process. You might be just getting started adjusting to life with an artificial limb. Your doctors and rehabilitation team are available to help you get the most out of your mobility. Chat with them about their suggestions for traveling with your prosthetic device.

You could ask the following questions:

  • Is it safe for me to ride on a plane?
  • How can I keep swelling at bay or lessen it while flying?
  • How often should I get out of the car and stop while driving?
  • What do I need to make sure I bring with me? 
  • What should I say to my family and friends about my situation?

You and your team will be the best judges of your readiness for travel. If this is your first year traveling with your artificial limb, take it easy and be patient with yourself.  You will be able to build a travel routine as you start to do it more often. 

embrace opportunity celebrate

Embrace the Opportunity to Celebrate This Holiday Season

While there are many unknowns as you plan to travel with your prosthetic device, it is an opportunity to embrace the changes in your life and overcome challenges. The holidays are a chance to reconnect with friends and family you may not have seen in a while. 

You may find this to be the most rewarding experience of the year. 

Orthopedic Appliance Company wishes you a Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year. The holidays are always a special time here in western North Carolina. 

We are grateful as we reflect on our sixty years of serving people here with the highest quality orthopedic braces and artificial limbs. Contact us if you have any questions about braces and prosthetic devices.