Adapting to life with a prosthetic limb is a huge adjustment and requires lots of support on both a physical and an emotional level. Having a collaborative therapy team on your side is key. That’s why short-term rehab, including prosthetic training, can be an ideal option for patients who have lost a limb as they adjust and move forward with their new normal.
New technology in prostheses makes them lightweight, high-tech and more functional than ever. Many now have bionic controls and are incredibly responsive. But they still take time and practice to use, along with professionally guided training. The ideal post-amputation environment involves a collaborative partnership among the patient, doctors and a rehab team including physical and occupational therapists.
Prosthetic training starts with the basics: learning to take your prosthesis off and on, setting up a wear schedule, learning how to control your high-tech prosthesis and caring for the skin of the remaining limb. Beyond that, the process will vary depending on the location of your prosthetic limb.
In the case of lower limb amputation, the goal is to get patients walking and in many cases back to running, sports and other activities. Recovery time will depend on whether the amputation site is above or below the knee since above the knee prosthetics are heavier and take longer to master. But regardless of location, having the support of a trained physical therapist is essential to moving forward on your path to recovery.
The Merck Manual recommends learning to walk first with direct assistance from therapists and then with a walker and cane and eventually walking independently, often in just a few weeks. Physical therapists also help patients learn to climb stairs and take on greater challenges as they become more accustomed to the prosthetic. This can include higher impact sports for younger, healthier patients.
In the case of upper limb prosthetics for amputated arms or hands, the focus is on getting back to daily tasks, and occupational therapy is key. Learning how to control today’s super responsive upper limb prosthetics takes patience and education but pays off in amazing ways.
According to the American Occupational Therapy Association, your therapy team can help in big ways with the following:
- Identifying goals including self-care, work tasks, driving, child care and leisure activities.
- Identifying modifications to tasks to help patients achieve those goals.
- Developing compensatory strategies–learning new ways to navigate old and new tasks to include your prosthesis.
Upper limb prosthetic training begins with controls training–helping you operate your new arm or hand. You’ll work on drills to get you comfortable and functional and then move on to training for those all-important tasks–from basic self-care to child care, work activities, driving, sports and hobbies.
With a prosthesis, the possibilities are endless, but it’s not always easy. In the case of both upper and lower limb prosthetics, there are so many physical and psychological factors that come into play. Making sure that patients get the emotional support they need, while at the same time moving forward with learning to use their new limb and making progress with their physical health can be a delicate balancing act.
What’s needed is a comprehensive, collaborative approach to help amputees adapt and progress. In many cases, short-term rehab is the best environment to allow the patient to focus on healing and adapting. At Evergreen, our team of skilled nurses, counselors and physical and occupational therapists help patients learn to use their prosthetic for the most basic tasks, moving onto the more complex tasks involved with work and family life. Our team is also equipped to help patients manage the psychological aftermath of losing a limb. With our emphasis on goal setting, we help patients focus on the can instead of the can’t and move forward at their own pace in a positive way.