Search
Close this search box.

Caring For Yourself

Personal Care

A residual limb presents an entirely new surface of the body to care for. Stump hygiene is particularly important since your residual limb will spend a good deal of time in close contact with a prosthesis.

Some hygiene guidelines:

  • Wash the residual limb daily with a mild or anti-bacterial soap;
  • Rinse the soap residue off the stump and dry it carefully;
  • Do not use oils, creams, or talcum powder unless advised by your clinical prosthetists;
  • Change your stump socks daily;
  • Inspect the residual limb at least daily and more often if it is sore. Use a hand mirror so you can see all of it.

If you notice any skin loss, soreness, or signs of infection (such as inflammation) in the residual limb, contact your clinical prosthetists as soon as possible.

Care of your Prosthesis

Your artificial limb is like any piece of equipment – it’s important to keep it clean and in good working condition or it will not work well for you.

If your prosthesis has a plastic socket, it should be cleaned by wiping first with a damp, soapy cloth, rinsed by wiping with a clean damp cloth, and then dried using a dry cloth. It should never be immersed in water.

Do not adjust any of the screws, joints, or other parts of the artificial limb unless you have been shown how to do this by your clinical prosthetist.

It’s a good idea to arrange an appointment with your clinical prosthetist every six months to have your artificial limb checked.

Care of your back, hip, knees and shoulders

When you are missing a limb, your problems can go far beyond the fact that you are missing an arm or a leg. If, for example, you have a pre-existing condition, such as decreased circulation in your extremities, or if you experience increased pressure on your residual limb because of a poorly fitting prosthetic socket, you may experience additional problems in that extremity. These potential problems include skin breakdown, infection, and even the need for another amputation higher up on that same limb. But your problems don’t necessarily even end on the residual limb. That missing limb can also lead to a wide variety of additional physical problems and impairments unless you take steps to prevent them.

The absence of a limb may, for example, impair mobility on the affected side, which can then lead to an overuse, compensation, or repetitive movement injury in the remaining sound limb or in another part of the body. Areas that are commonly affected are the back, hip, knee, and shoulder. And these injuries can really be a pain – both figuratively and literally.

Back Problems

Because the back is so willing to “help out” during daily activities, it is easily injured. The back (usually the lower back) tries to compensate for decreased or abnormal motion of the legs during walking, and this additional stress is sometimes more than the back can handle. If you use a prosthesis, it is, therefore, crucial that you learn to walk properly with it. By making sure that your prosthesis fits properly and participating in gait training with a physiotherapist, you can help ensure that you walk in a way that minimizes any negative forces on your back. Though trunk stabilization and strength are important for everyone, they are even more critical for someone with a lower extremity amputation. A back that is stable and strong is much less likely to be injured.

Hip and Knee Problems

It is also fairly common for those with a lower extremity amputation to have hip or knee pain in their residual or sound limb as a result of a poor walking pattern or constant positioning. Immediately after a limb amputation, the body quickly attempts to decrease its use of the residual limb because of pain or apprehension. Unfortunately, this attempt to protect the residual limb can be detrimental to the sound limb. When people who use a leg prosthesis swing their leg on their prosthetic side unnaturally to move their prosthetic leg forward, they can injure their hip. In addition, when they try to avoid putting weight on their residual limb to protect it when they walk, they often put increased weight on their sound limb. This additional weight can cause injury to their knee. Today, prosthetic limbs are made to be functional, not to be used as a crutch or an assistive device. Unfortunately, people who don’t know how to walk properly with their prosthesis sometimes use it more like a weight-bearing crutch. Walking with good, equal weight on both the sound and prosthetic leg will assist in decreasing hip and knee pain and perhaps decrease the chance of more debilitating injuries. Physiotherapy to work on gait training and improving muscle balance can help you achieve such a symmetric walking pattern. In addition to using your prosthesis properly, it is essential that you increase your stability and strength in both your residual and sound limb and establish good muscle control in both, regardless of the length of your residual limb.

Shoulder Problems

Overuse and repetitive motions generally cause most shoulder pain, and this pain can be initiated or exacerbated by an upper extremity amputation. Shoulder problems may occur as a result of increased use of the sound limb or constant motions of the residual limb due to prosthesis use. The discomfort or tightness commonly felt between the shoulder and neck in conjunction with shoulder pain can be very problematic. Overhead activities, whether performed daily or during the occasional “weekend painting project”, can increase shoulder pain, especially if the individual has neglected stretching, strengthening, and stabilization exercises of the shoulder muscles, primarily the rotator cuff. Stretching before and frequent breaks during upper body activities can assist in decreasing overall shoulder pain. In addition, a slow, progressive exercise program that does not increase pain during the exercise, but which may result in a feeling of muscle fatigue for one to two days following it, should aid in decreasing overall pain.

General Information

Ideally, extremities should be used equally to keep your joints free from pain. Proper muscle function will help strengthen your muscles, prevent injury, and alleviate joint stress. In addition, an active exercise program will help prevent injury and allow good blood flow to maintain healthy joints. The key is to start slowly and work your way up to performing daily activities and exercises that help reduce the pain in the part of your body that is hurting. Though people with amputations have an increased chance of having joint pain in certain areas, it can be prevented or dealt with through commitment to an active exercise program.

Tips to Help with Joint Pain

  • Stretch before any activity.
  • Establish a good exercise program, especially one devoted to your problem areas. Inquire about aquatic exercises, which can be easier on the joints.
  • Be aware of your posture, whether you are at rest or active.
  • Get proper education and therapy in walking with prosthetic legs, using prosthetic arms, using a wheelchair, and/or increasing functional independence of your residual limbs.
  • Maintain a well-balanced diet, and inquire about a weight-reduction diet with a physician if you are overweight or obese.
  • Consult a physician about pain-management options, especially if you are dealing with severe or chronic pain.
 

Today, people with amputations have a better quality of life and better physical abilities than they did in the past, regardless of whether they are elite athletes or older people with diabetes who use a wheelchair. Learning how to prevent or deal with back, hip, knee, and shoulder pain is a crucial part of gaining as much independence as possible. Understanding that you can live without the constant fear of injury or constant joint or muscle pain is a good start. Doing something about it is the next step. You should contact your doctor or physiotherapist to help you establish the proper treatment plan for your specific concern.

Diabetes Management

See more on Diabetes Management

Foot Care

See more on Foot Care

Our main goals

Empowering amputees to care for themselves and their prosthetics, ensuring a high quality of life and independence.
Amputee Guide
Artificial Limbs

Exploring artificial limbs: enhancing lives, overcoming challenges, and fostering independence.

Phantom Limb

Understanding and adapting to phantom limb sensations for amputees.

Amputee Mobility

Promoting independence and mobility for amputees through advanced prosthetic solutions.

Benefits & Assistance

Navigating financial aid and support services for amputees, focusing on benefits and assistance programs.

Sport & Recreation

Promoting active lifestyles for amputees through sports, physical activities, and recreational opportunities.

Caring For Yourself

Guidance on self-care for amputees, covering limb hygiene, prosthesis care, and joint health.

Children & Teens

Supporting children and teens with limb differences: emotional, educational, and social guidance for growth and inclusion.

Employment

Enhancing employment prospects for amputees through support, rights protection, and tailored services.

Amputee Support
Coping with Loss

Addressing emotional healing and adaptation for amputees coping with limb loss.

Support Networks

Building community and offering peer support for amputees through regional societies and social networks.

Societies

Connecting amputees across New Zealand through supportive regional societies and resources.

Artificial Limbs

Enhancing amputee lives through artificial limbs: adaptation, comfort, and mobility.

Sign Up to receive our Newsletter

* indicates required
This field is required.