Information for Individuals with Upper Limb Difference
Working with your Prosthetist after Amputation
As you continue recovering from amputation surgery, your doctor may refer you to a prosthetist, a medical professional who is specially trained to help people with limb loss and limb difference be fitted for a replacement or artificial limb, also known as a prosthesis or prosthetic limb.
You can contact your prosthetist’s office for an appointment, where you can discuss your recovery goals and together explore your prosthetics options.
Working with an Occupational Therapist
If you have had an upper limb amputation surgery involving your fingers, hand or arm, you are likely to also be referred for Occupational Therapy, to help you learn new ways of adjusting and practicing daily living activities.
Because adjusting to upper limb loss can be especially challenging, an Occupational Therapist can also help support you in your emotional and psychological well-being.
According to the American Occupational Therapy Association, a primary goal of an Occupational Therapist is to help you work with a prosthesis to gain more functionality, as well as make suggestions for compensations to try if you have not already been fitted with a prosthesis or choose not to wear one.
Phases of working with an occupational therapist
The process of working with an Occupational Therapist typically involves a number of phases, including: Acute, Pre-Prosthetic Training and Basic and Advanced Prosthetic Training.
In this initial phase, the Occupational Therapist will perform an evaluation and develop a plan focused on your needs and goals. They are likely to help you with wound care, pain control and range of motion, and provide recommendations for starting to desensitize your residual limb.
As your recovery continues, your Occupational Therapist will recommend exercises for general physical conditioning as well as to help you with changes in posture, which can occur when people adjust to sensation of limb loss or the weight of their prosthesis. You will learn how to participate in tasks like feeding and dressing yourself.
Your Occupational Therapist may also recommend activities to help prepare you for being fitted for your prosthesis, such as controlling swelling, managing any scarring, and learning muscle movement and body motions to help you control your prosthesis after you are fitted.
Basic and Advanced Prosthetic Training
After you are fitted with your prosthesis, your Occupational Therapist can help you learn techniques for using your prosthesis for your daily activities. They can also provide guidance so you can efficiently put on and remove your prosthesis, which is known as donning and doffing.
As you continue practicing wearing and using your prosthesis, your Occupational Therapist can also help you expand your activities. Based on your needs and capabilities, you may be able to resume child care, home maintenance, work activities and driving, as well as sports and hobbies that you enjoy.
Choosing a Prosthesis
Your prosthetist will play a key role when it comes to choosing which artificial limb or prosthesis are recommended for you.
Based on your overall health, your mobility goals and mobility potential, your prosthetist will recommend which prostheses might be best for you, so it is important that you discuss your immediate mobility needs, as well as your longer-term goals.