Learning to Walk with a Prosthetic Limb

 

Losing a lower limb can be a very life-changing and in turn, creates this huge emotional rollercoaster. I’m sure you might be feeling a little anxious about your journey to walking again with the help of prosthetics. This is extremely understandable, I am really anxious, myself. The process of fitting, the process of standing on it for the first time, and then the process of actually walking can sometimes seem a little “too much.” Trust me when I say, it is like a weight being lifted off of your shoulders and you’ve gained the freedom you might not have thought you could ever have again.

It’s always a good thing to seek out physical therapy – while some, like me, haven’t used physical therapy there is a number of factors that give you reason enough to go. Your gait is really important and getting it right is essential to your balance and the way that you walk. The process of learning how to walk again is going to be a long and tiring one. That does not mean you should give up, all of the hard work, all of the time that has been spent will be well worth it when you’re out there walking on your own again as if you’ve never even lost a leg. It will take several months to regain the strength, core strength, confidence, and flexibility while using your prosthesis.

Prosthetic limbs are made in all shapes and sizes, specifically designed, and molded to fit you. Each socket is one-of-a-kind. There are various amputations including those at the hop, above the knee (AKA), below the knee (BK), knee disarticulation, symes or through the ankle and partial foot amputations. It is always extremely important to openly and honestly express to your Prosthetist about how your socket is fitting, if there is any pain if there needs to be any adjusting, etc. Because the most important part of a prosthetic leg is the socket, the socket ensures there are comfort and control. Proper maintenance of your prosthetic limb should also be done for maximum comfort, i.e. Replacing your liner, cleaning your socket with alcohol to prevent skin irritation, replacing your prosthetic sleeve accordingly.

When you begin to walk your experience may be different than others. My first-time walking was in the hospital where I stayed as I was healing from my accident. I started walking with a walker, a rope tied around my waist, and someone with a wheelchair readily behind me for much-needed breaks. While most of the time you will start at your Prosthetists office for the fitting process on parallel bars. You’ll be learning how to balance weight on your prosthesis. We natural shift weight back and forth from one leg to the other this is important to learn how to do with your prosthesis. The most important aspect of this though is that you put faith in your prosthetic. Trust that it will hold you because it will. Trust that you can take that step because you can. In no time you’ll be putting your weight properly into your prosthesis and walking again like it’s nothing. So, back to the parallel bars. You will use these so that both of your arms are giving you support and from there you will be walking with only one arm for support and soon after, you’ll be walking on your own with little to no support. If you are a bilateral amputee, like me, the process of learning to walk again could take longer. Don’t let this get you down. Remember to take it slow at first, taking breaks when they are due and not pushing yourself too hard causing yourself pain. This could, in fact, slow down the process.

When you do start walking on your own, it’s best to follow specific instructions from your medical advisor, if there is any. Like using a cane, walking sticks, walker, or other aides that will help you along your journey. Once you are walking day-to-day, again, it is important to take it slow. Be aware of your surroundings. Take into consideration the obstacles and terrain you will need to walk through and over. You will, without a doubt, run into situations that will be challenging at first, such as, stairs, curbs, hills, uneven surfaces, grass, sand, rocky areas. There are effective ways to navigate through all of these and it’s best to have your physical therapist guide you through the process. I, in no way, want to urge you to do this alone. But if you do intend to wing it yourself make sure that you have a close friend or family member right by your side taking the necessary precautions that ensure your safety.