An Overview of Residual Limb After Amputation

If you have suffered an amputation of the arm or leg, then you know how extensive the physical therapy and rehabilitation process is for this type of injury. You may need to work closely with a physical therapist as part of a rehabilitation team to help you restore normal mobility and function. Your PT can help you learn the ins and outs of functioning well after a limb amputation.

Photo of a man with an amputation talking to a doctor
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Proper Terminology After an Amputation

Historically, an amputated limb has been called a "stump." Unfortunately, this term is not the most attractive term to use. Many people who have had an amputation feel the term is insensitive.

There is a more appropriate term: residual limb. The term residual limb refers to the part of the body that remains after an amputation has been performed. For example, if you have had a lower-extremity amputation above the knee, the part of your thigh that remains after the amputation is called the residual limb.

Rehabilitation After Amputation

The rehabilitation process after an amputation involves proper care of your residual limb. First and foremost, you must ensure that the surgical incision heals properly. You must be on the lookout for signs of infection, and your doctor must be alerted if you suspect infection in your residual limb.

Shaping of your residual limb is important after an amputation as well. Ensuring the proper shape of your residual limb will make fitting a prosthesis a lot easier. Your physical therapist can teach you wrapping techniques to help your limb maintain the proper shape after a lower-extremity amputation.

Occasionally after an amputation, your limb may be highly sensitive. This is caused by altered nerve signals at the end of your residual limb. Desensitization techniques can help you ensure that your limb is not too sensitive after an amputation. This will make using your prosthesis easier.

Phantom limb pain is a complex and confusing phenomenon that may occur after you have had an amputation. Be sure to work with your doctor, physical therapist, and rehabilitation team to help you manage phantom limb pain if you are experiencing it.

Most importantly, exercise for your residual limb (and your entire body) is essential after an amputation. You will need good strength in the muscles that remain intact after an amputation for proper walking and functional mobility.

If you have had an amputation, you should check in with your doctor to see if physical therapy would help you move better and feel better. Your rehab program will likely focus on learning exercises that you can do to help you move better and feel better. Learning to modify your activities to maximize your mobility may also be a part of your PT program.

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