Your Care Team
So first off, you need to know who you’re dealing with here. Who do you see for what? Who is most readily available to you? What exactly is a prosthetist? Here we go.
Your major base is going to be your prosthetist. This person is going to get funding for, fit, build, and adjust your device for you. This is the person that can help you with your fit, your gait, and give tips on how to use your device best, and get the fullest coverage for your necessary device(s).
Another major person is your physiotherapist. They are going to help you through rehab and beyond as you get the hang of using your device and dealing with the other implications of being an amputee. Don’t underestimate their knowledge and lasting importance. If you’re feeling more tired or sore, it might be a good idea to make another appointment. If you find a physio with working knowledge with amputees, keep in contact.
As always, you should establish a good rapport with your general practitioner (GP). This is your family doctor, but often infections, wounds, and other concerns will bridge into their territory. When your prosthetist isn’t available, and a doctor may help, make an appointment.
Other specialists like chiropractors, acupuncturists, and massage therapists can help you stay on track and are an important preventative health measure. Get in the habit of prioritizing maintaining health rather than waiting for an issue to come up before seeking help.
There are specific terms that can help you communicate best with your care team, making it easier to solve problems and find the best care. We’ve also included some terms that are common in disability and amputee groups (especially online) so that you can best navigate those communities as well.
Wearing away of the skin through rubbing or friction. If your socket is chafing or rubbing and your skin is irritated, it can cause abrasion.
An above elbow amputation
An above knee amputation
How the components in an artificial leg line up in relation to each other. If your gait is “off” it might be because a component (foot, ankle, wrist, hand or knee) is tilted or not lined up with the rest of your prosthesis. This can also happen for lower limb amputees wearing new shoes.
Removal of all or part of a limb due to infection, injury, tumor, disease or trauma
A person who has had all or part of a limb removed or is born without part of a limb
The front side. On your leg this is the shin, arm it’s the top.
The shrinkage of muscle tissue due to change in function. Your residual limb will begin to atrophy, and may be “softer” and smaller. This can become an issue because you need some muscle and flesh to cushion you in a socket.
A below elbow amputation
An amputee without both arms or both legs
A below knee amputation
Rhythm of walking. This relates to how smooth your walk is, so if you feel you’re limping or have uneven steps you’ll need to work on your cadence.
Check socket (AKA test socket)
A temporary plastic socket formed over the plaster model to assist in the fitting process
Refers to an amputee who was born without limb(s)
Tightening of muscles around a joint which causes restriction in the range of motion. Above knee amputees can develop this in their hip flexors, while upper limb amputees can often develop “tennis elbow” and issues in their shoulders. Your physio and the rest of your care team will work with you to prevent this.
Certified Prosthetist and Orthotist
The process of making the residual limb less sensitive to touch by massaging, tapping, using a vibrator or rubbing with a terry cloth. This can help prevent phantom pain, but also can trigger it.
An artificial limb designed for long term comfort, fit, alignment, function, cosmetic appeal and durability (to replace temporary/preparatory first fitting).
An amputation through a joint – the hip, knee, ankle, elbow, wrist or shoulder
Farthest from the center (for example, the foot is the distal part of the leg)
Taking off a prosthesis
Putting on a prosthesis
Swelling of tissue. Most amputees experience some swelling and redness on their residual limb as it gets used to being in a socket for long periods of time. This especially affects those using total contact and suspension sockets.
Energy output, achieved by a spring-like design in prosthetic feet. Energy return is a great thing to look for in feet and ankle systems, but trialing is always a good idea. You don’t want to feel like you’re “hopping” in your steps or are worried about control.
Has a soft outer shell (supported by an internal skeleton of a pylon, etc.) – components are lightweight and require fewer adjustments
Hard outer shell – generally heavier but more durable than endoskeletal. The components last longer and are more suitable for recreational activities
Joint motion, flexing or bending a joint
Manner of walking – everyone has an individualized one. Your gait needs to be predictable and helped, not hindered, by how your tech is working. New microprocessor devices can predict your gait- one of their biggest strengths.
Professional training to achieve a natural gait (manner of walking)
Am upper limb device operated by body movement which provides a good grasping function.
Inner surface of the socket, or portion of the prosthesis closest to the skin. Think about it being the area of “interaction” between your body and your device.
Towards the side or outside (for example, the outside of the thigh is a lateral part of the leg)
Towards the mid-line of the body (for example, the inside of the thigh is a medial part of the leg)
Electronic sensors are used to pick up the feedback from muscle contractions to move artificial components such as a hand or elbow
A ball of nerve fibres that forms on the end of a severed nerve which continues to grow and can sometimes be troublesome and cause pain
Occupational therapist (OT)
A person who works with an amputee to teach the amputee how to use a prosthesis (such as a myoelectric arm) and adaptive skills
A device that assists partial hand amputees to grasp while retaining sensation (aka spatula device)
A person who performs surgery on bones or muscles - for example, amputation, hip replacement, stump revision
Device used to support weakened joints or limbs
A person who builds and maintains devices to support weakened joints or limbs, such as a brace
A newer procedure for amputees where a device is directly implanted into the bone of the residual limb, making a socket unnecessary. This is still under some development but successful cases are increasing. Recently, Ossur and Ottobock (the two largest prosthetic manufacturers) have been working together to improve this technique.
Phantom limb pain
Pain experienced by an amputee in a limb no longer present. Some estimates say that 80% of amputees experience this at some time. This has an enormous range, from sensations of buzzing to shooting pains or deep aching.
Phantom limb sensation
Sensation that a limb no longer there is still present
A doctor of rehabilitation medicine specializing in the comprehensive management of clients with conditions arising from neuromuscular, muskuloskeletal and vascular disorders
A person who works with an amputee in the rehabilitation phase to improve muscle function through exercise and can assist with gait training
The residual limb slips up and down within the socket.
The thickness of stump socks – the higher the number the thicker the sock
Rear, back. This is behind the knee or the underside of your arm.
More than one prosthesis (artifical limb)
A sock generally worn with an artificial limb that provides additional padding for bony surfaces
An artificial limb
A person who builds and maintains artificial limbs
A rigid central shaft, usually tubular, that is attached to the socket or knee unit of an endoskeletal prosthesis. The lower end of the pylon is connected to an artificial foot or ankle
Range of motion
The amount of movement a limb has in a specific direction at a specific joint (hip, knee, ankle, shoulder, elbow or wrist)
The process of readapting after an injury or surgery
The part of the limb remaining after the amputation (aka stump)
Surgical alteration of the residual limb to improve function or appearance
(E.g. Van Nes Rotation) a procedure where the lower portion of the leg is rotated 180° and reattached – the ankle acts like a knee joint, providing extra function
Long-term effects of a disease, injury, procedure or treatment. Think “sequel.”
Soft insert liner
Cup-shaped form which fits inside the socket of a below-knee artificial limb
The part of the prosthesis (artificial limb) that fits around the residual limb, and fits around the liner or socket insert if one is used
Soft liner within a socket to provide cushioning
A device that assists partial hand amputees to grasp while retaining sensation (aka Opposition Post)
The part of the limb remaining after amputation (aka residual limb)
Method by which the artificial limb is held in place
(Or Boyd amputation which is similar) named for the surgeon who introduced the procedure – foot is removed, the shin bones are flattened and the heel pad is sewn back in place
The part of the artificial arm which acts like a hand – can be a passive hand, mechanical hand, hook-type or myoelectric device
Total suction socket
Allows the artificial limb to be held in place by air pressure only, eliminates the use of belts and straps
An amputation which is the result of an injury, or a surgical amputation due to a medical condition (for example: vascular disease, cancer)
Van Nes Rotation
A procedure where the lower portion of the leg is rotated 180° and reattached – the ankle acts as a knee joint, providing extra function
Amputation performed as a result of impaired circulation of blood through the blood vessels