Solutions for common issues
These are some of the most common issues that you might have as an amputee. Navigating all the resources out there can be daunting, so we've tried to narrow the search for you a little, and add some commentary. If you have suggestions or more questions, email us at !
We’ve compiled some helpful everyday tips for general stump care as an amputee. It’s vital to ensure your skin is healthy so that you do not have issues wearing your prosthesis. Prosthetists recommend cleaning your liners everyday with a non irritant soap and checking your stump for signs of skin breakdown before issues arise. If you notice signs of heat rash or blisters, I typically try to avoid wearing my leg for a day or so to give my stump a break. Sometimes, soaps can cause irritation so it’s important to check what works with you. Your prosthetist can recommend cleaners and even special products to keep up on hygiene.
War Amps: Residual Limb Care and Hygiene
War Amps: Skin Care
Swelling is a very common issue among amputees. Many factors can affect how your stump swells: humidity, not drinking enough water, water retention, and a high sodium diet. There are many ways you can keep on top of swelling. If you’re a new amputee, you’re often fitted with a “shrinker” sock or tensor bandage depending on amputation level. These help mold the shape of your stump but many people will keep their shrinker to control swelling. For example, if I find I’m retaining water, wearing my shrinker a half hour before putting on my leg can lessen the swelling. Cold compresses, and elevating your stump can help as well. Keeping on top of this ensures you can have a good fit in your socket, and will mean less other issues like chafing or discomfort.
Diabetes Canada: Reducing Salt Intake
Check out this helpful resource on cutting down on sodium. This is especially important for diabetics, who make up a large proportion of amputees.
As a lady amputee, I have no shame mentioning that menstruation creates some extra issues as an amputee. First and foremost, you are more likely to retain water, so try and keep high salt cravings at bay and stay hydrated while on your period. I also notice that I get more bone pain and chafing, especially as my socket rests right up to my hip-flexor. Making sure you keep on top of hygiene is integral so that you don’t cause further issues. Something that works especially well for me is an epsom salt bath to curb inflammation and cramps after a long day of leg-wearing.
War Amps: Menstruation
Wearing a prosthesis can be tough on your body, and an improper fit or a lot of strenuous activity can result in chafing, cuts, and bruises. Knowing how to bandage these properly and avoid worsening the problem is important to being able to go about your daily life.
Amputee Coalition of America: Wound Care Preventing Infection
Phantom pain is different for everyone. Some people find it can be debilitating; however, pain medication, wearing your prosthesis frequently, massaging your stump and mentally connecting with your prosthesis can help. Often amputees will get surges, buzzing or infrequent occurrences of phantom pain. For example, I experience buzzing, occasional aching after wearing my leg for an extended period of time and, jilts like pins and needles. Once I started using my prosthesis often and acknowledged it as a new part of my body, I experienced less phantom pain.
War Amps: Pain and Phantom Limbs
This article covers phantom limbs as well as touching on pain in general.
AmputeeOT: Mirror Therapy
I personally don’t benefit from mirror therapy, and find it can make my buzzing sensations worse, or make me more aware of phantom limb sensations. For those with more severe phantom pains though, this is one of the only therapies out there which has been shown to help. Talk to your care team about therapies and to get further pointers.
Whether it’s phantom pain, back pain, strains from overexertion or wear on the sound limb, most amputees experience chronic pain. Many symptoms include bone and joint pain, back pain, headaches and stump pain. As amputees are often compensating for one side or part of their bodies, they are exerting more energy and walking or performing tasks slightly differently than they would otherwise. There can be physical consequences to that compensation, like scoliosis, osteoporosis and arthritis. Focusing on preventative methods to maintain overall body health will help make sure that the pain these conditions can cause isn’t debilitating, and can help prevent them. Things like regular exercise, physio, massage and chiropractors are great ways to help your body. We’ve included tips on maintaining health to avoid pain occurrences. If you are dealing with chronic pain, mindfulness training, support groups, as well as discussing your pain with your general practitioner are all good avenues to explore.
Amputee Coalition: Living with a Limb Difference
This is a general guide to living as an amputee, but it covers some of the most important habits to maintain to lessen the effects of chronic pain on your life.
Pain BC: Chronic Pain Self Management
Some of the resources offered are BC specific, but your community should have support groups and resources available that are similar. Ask your GP for recommendations, and your prosthetist if there are any specific amputee pain groups.
Amputees and the disabled community in general can be subjected to fetishism. This is a topic that people avoid, but it’s incredibly important to keep informed, aware, and have control of your photos and who gets to view your profiles and why. Online there is a large community of people dubbed “devotees” who have websites, forums and pages on Facebook dedicated to sharing photos of amputees- real or fake. As an amputee it's difficult to comprehend a group of people who sexualize you based on your amputation.
At first, getting a huge number of friend requests, compliments or questions about your life might seem flattering. As messages can become more explicit, insistent or otherwise inappropriate and disingenuous, I found I regard it more and more as a frustrating and objectifying scheme. Be aware of your online persona and determine if it makes you feel uncomfortable and what your options are. There are ways you can ignore their messages, change privacy settings, and block users who request to follow you. A good tell is if their profile follows exclusively amputees, or only amputee women. Often they don’t have any original posts, or obviously are only sharing to devotee boards. Many amputee communities online actively suppress devotee action on their pages, to create a safe space, and can be a good resource to talk this and other issues out.
See our article on Body Image for a little blurb on sexuality as an amputee for more background.