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6 Reasons Why Your Prosthetic Leg Feels Heavy (and What You Can Do About It)

Posted by Bryan Potok, CPO on

Why does my leg feel heavy? This may be a question you've asked yourself at least at one point in your journey as an amputee. Here are six possible reasons why your prosthetic leg feels that way, and what you can do about it.

Why does my first prosthetic leg feel heavy?

Loose Prosthetic Socket

The socket is the most critical component of your prosthesis. If it doesn’t fit correctly, you can experience pain, sores and blisters, and the prosthesis will feel heavy and cumbersome," said Scott Sabolich, CP, LP.

A number of factors can contribute to a loose socket: weight loss or gain, and changes in your body alignment. Get in touch with your Prosthetist once you're unable to maintain a snug fit or you hear a whooshing noise emitting from the socket, because these are signs that your socket needs attention.

Poor Suspension

Suspension is how you connect your prosthesis to your residual limb and you want your suspension system to be in great shape to maintain your limb's good health, ensure comfort, and give you security as you move. If your suspension system fails to give you comfort and movement by constricting blood vessels or fits your prosthesis too tightly, your leg can feel heavy and restricted. Check your vacuum pump if it's clogged or if your sleeve has a hole. Ask your prosthetist if you're unsure about fixing it on your own.

Prep or Your First Prosthetic Limb

Anything that's new will always need some fine tuning and getting used to. Generally, if it's your prep or very first prosthesis, it may feel quite unnatural or unusual when you first try it on. Jamie Gane, an adaptive athlete and lower limb amputee, describes in his blog how it feels to wear a prosthesis for the very first time:

"… when you first receive your leg, it can feel extremely heavy and bulky, without even walking. This does get a lot easier with time as you get stronger and more used to your leg…".

Like all other things, it will get better in time and with more practice, you'll feel more connected to your prosthesis in the long run.

Length of Time Off

If you're not used to wearing your prosthesis regularly or haven't worn it for a while, your leg can feel heavy once you put it on again. Unless advised by your prosthetist to stay off of it for a period of time, it's best to promote consistency by practicing on your leg each day so that your body gets well-adjusted.

Shorter Residual Limb

If your residual limb is shorter, the heavier your leg may feel and an extension of your prosthesis may be required. This means you might need to use a heavier type of prosthesis so it fits better. There are treatments available that can help if this is the case for you, such as the lengthening of your short residual femur to "facilitate above-the-knee prosthetic fitting". (Source: Life Bridge Health)

Heavy Feet

The prosthetic foot's weight can affect your suspension system, as well as the connection to your socket and limb. Heavier feet can create increased energy consumption and walking asymmetries (or uneven walking).

However, you may avoid or alleviate the feeling of a heavy leg altogether by using a lighter prosthesis. Improving energy efficiency and reducing fatigue, a lighter artificial limb has the potential to allow amputees to engage in higher levels of activity and enjoy them for longer durations. Consult your prosthetist to find a limb and associated prosthetic components that are perfect for your needs.

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  • Yes, I mine are very lose the place that did my legs only fitted me once and ordered them about three weeks later they came in he put them on the me walked down the run way that was so it went back two weeks later told him they don’t the fit that, I can not walk anywhere they are so heavy and loose, where can you go for the right fit. Yours Truely Husband, Father and Grandfather!

    mark on

  • I lost my leg last November due to an aggressive blood clotting disorder. I have an ak and got my first cleg prosthetic in July. Since then I’ve been working with my PT 2 to 3 times a week for an hour or two at a time. My pain is back with a vengeance, both nerve and physical. The pain is different than before and my pain meds nor my gabapentin are even coming close to touching the pain. Im in tears, I’m in pain and I don’t know what to do. I have an appointment with a new prosthetist tomorrow morning and an appointment in November with my regular dr to discuss pain option. Please help me with any tips, suggestions, advice etc. What are some great amputee resources? Magazines, Facebook groups etc.. also, feel free to add me on Facebook hahaha. Thanks everyone for listening to me vent.

    Miranda Sherman on

  • I lost my first leg below the knee in June 2016, then the right below the knee in 2017. The left side is perfect and the right side I just received my final prep socket that I will wear for two weeks before we go a head with the final socket. I see al negative comments on here and it’s horrible. I can do almost everything I could do before. I run, skate, walk distances play sports etc. The right prosthetist and foot is key. I’ve been through over 15 sockets in total. It takes time and patience people. I know you’ll all get there.

    Chad Blewett on

  • I lost my lower left leg and none of the prosthetic legs have worked for me, the weight is to much and the pain inside the socket is extremely difficult to deal with. Everyone said you can do 90% of what you use to do. Not correct. Not happy.

    Curtis R Dorman on

  • My short experience with a below the prosthetic is that it fits nice for one hour in the morning and then the rest of the day totally sucks!!!! I just received a new revised prosthetic 3 weeks ago and it fit great for 5 days, than all down hill from there. Now I am back to adding sock after sock during the day and still do not get that good fit. My nerve pain is back like it was after surgery.

    Michael Stith on

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