How to Use Your Prosthetic Leg for 100% Mobility
If you’ve recently gone through amputation or your surgery is around the corner, you are likely considering what life would be like with a prosthetic leg. Prosthetic legs, or prostheses, are designed to help those who have undergone a leg amputation get around with ease. They mimic both the function and, in some cases, the appearance of a human leg. Even with a prosthetic leg, some patients still require the help of a cane, walker, or crutches to get around.
If you’re looking for additional information to help you make your decision about whether or not a prosthetic is right for you, our team at PrimeCare Orthotics & Prosthetics can help answer your questions.
What Do You Need to Do Before Walking with a Prosthetic Leg?
Before you’re able to begin the walking process, you’ll first want to focus on the fit of your prosthetic leg. The prosthesis is made from different parts that work together:
- The prosthetic leg itself is made from durable yet lightweight materials with the patient in mind. Depending on where your amputation has occurred, you may or may not have functional knee and ankle joints on the prosthetic leg.
- The socket molds to your residual limb and is one of the most important parts in securely attaching the prosthetic to your body.
- The suspension system keeps the prosthesis attached to the residual limb. Options for suspension systems include a distal locking pin, sleeve suction, or vacuum suction.
Once you have selected the preferred components and you’ve been properly fitted, next comes the rehabilitation process where you’ll work to strengthen your legs, arms, and cardiovascular system. During this process, you’ll work closely with occupational therapists, physical therapists, and rehabilitation physicians to slowly meet your mobility goals. As soon as you have enough strength to put weight on your legs, you’ll be fitted with short prosthetic training feet to re-learn balance.
When you’re comfortable with the training feet, you’ll continue the learning process with devices that increase your height two inches at a time. During this step, you’ll use walkers or canes for additional stability. The next step is being fitted for a custom-made full-length prosthetic where you’ll learn to maneuver the joints to mimic a natural gait. The overall process of learning to walk can take as long as one year, particularly if your amputation occurred above the knee.
Is It Difficult to Learn How to Walk with a Prosthetic Leg?
You might be wondering if you can walk normally with a prosthetic leg. Be patient with yourself as you’re learning how to walk with a prosthetic leg as you will undoubtedly hit some common road bumps along the way. Even after you’ve put the work into the rehabilitation process, you could run into challenges such as:
- Hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating) that can potentially impact how the prosthesis fits your body as well as potential skin issues.
- Changes in the shape of your residual limb are not uncommon during the first year after amputation. The tissue will settle into a more permanent shape that can impact the socket and your ability to walk comfortably.
- Residual limb weakness could make it difficult to use the prosthesis for long periods.
- Phantom limb pain could be severe enough that it impedes your ability to use the prosthesis.
Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that the specific challenges you may encounter are highly dependent on where your amputation occurred. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to the process of learning how to walk with a prosthetic leg.
Importance of Exercises
Rehabilitation exercises both during the recovery process and throughout the rest of your life can help increase your range of motion and better support your new way of life. Consistently working on exercises that your physical therapist gives you can also help improve your balance and reduce your feelings of phantom limb pain.
Perhaps one of the most important benefits of consistent exercises is the increase in confidence that you’ll feel. Stay patient and know that it will take time and practice to feel confident with your prosthetic leg.
How Far Can You Walk with a Prosthetic Leg?
The distance that patients can walk ranges depending on where their amputation is and how long they’ve had with the prosthetic. Generally speaking, the median distance that someone with a lower limb amputation could walk was about 67 meters which equates to about 219 feet. Some patients were only able to walk 22 meters (72 feet) while others could walk as far as 93 meters (305 feet).
How Many Hours a Day Can You Wear a Prosthetic Leg?
Make sure to follow the recommended schedule from your care team so you don’t overdo it. On the first day of wearing your prosthesis, wear it for only 30 minutes before taking it off. You may notice some red marks where your residual limb was feeling the pressure, but these marks will subside within 30 minutes.
If you don’t have any issues, you can increase the wear time the following day to three 30-minute sessions. Consider wearing the prosthesis after each meal, and always remember to examine the limb when you take off your prosthesis.
On the third day, you can wear it for 45 minutes three times per day; on the fourth day, 60 minutes three times a day, and so on. Use this schedule as a general guideline but always ask your therapist for specific recommendations.
Can You Walk Normally with a Prosthetic Leg?
We know that you might have additional questions on how to work your way up to a normal walk with a prosthetic leg, but know it is possible depending on your specific situation. Our team at PrimeCare Orthotics & Prosthetics is happy to work with you to help you regain your mobility and confidence. If you or a loved one is ready to take the next steps toward a prosthetic or orthotic device, please contact us today!