When it comes to making the most out of your prosthesis, the no-brainer answer is using it as much as you can. However, another factor that’s also important for prosthetic wearers is comfort, which you can’t get without adding one more thing to your setup—prosthetic socks.
Image from Knitrite
Yes, the humble prosthetic sock has been redesigned and repurposed especially for amputees to serve as a barrier between the residual limb and the prosthesis. Its presence helps protect the skin which can easily feel tender with repeated rubbing on the prosthesis. And just like the high end athletic socks, prosthetic socks are also designed to wick away moisture and fight bacteria, thus preventing your socket from becoming a breeding ground while minimizing odors.
But most experienced amputees know that the functions of a prosthetic sock go way beyond moisture-wicking and skin-protecting. Here is when a prosthetic sock can help you get the most out of your prosthesis—occupying space where tissue and fluid volume have decreased. This phenomenon is also known as “volume loss,” which is not at all uncommon to many amputees.
Volume loss happens when a person loses weight. Another common culprit is the natural daily body fluctuations. When these occur, it causes your residual limb to either ride too high or low and bears excess weight or pressure in along areas of your limb that are not meant for such a heavy-duty job.
For below-knee (BK) amputees, the distal end or the bottom of the residual limb may be the problem area, but sometimes it could also be a point higher on the leg, near the knee joint. If you experience pain near the knee joint or along your knee cap the culprit could be most likely volume loss, and a prosthetic sock or two can fix this.
Meanwhile, for above-knee (AK) amputees, volume loss could create a problem at the bottom of the residual limb, making the limb sink farther into the socket. When this happens, pain around the groin area is a possibility.
But now that you know how prosthetic socks can help you get through the pains that volume loss brings, should you go and buy just about any sock that’s available on the market? Not so fast. There are still a lot of things to take into consideration when choosing socks that you wear under your gel liner.
Special uses of a prosthetic sock
Standard prosthetic socks are often not equipped with odor-minimizing fiber mixes. Without special fibers, these ordinary prosthetic socks could quickly become the new breeding ground for colonies of bacteria that are responsible for the less-than-pleasant smell you get after several hours of wearing a prosthesis.
Special socks can come imbued with antibacterial additives or silver fibers that protect you from odor and bacteria. Furthermore, these specially made socks are noticeably thinner than your standard prosthetic socks which work to increase suspension.
Some socks may require modification for proper use. One is cutting the sock’s toe section off when using it along the top edge of a suction liner. Another is cutting a prosthetic sock in half when a “half” sock is needed. This situation usually arises for BK amputees who are experiencing volume loss and need the added volume on the bottom of the residual limb.
Now that you know how prosthetic socks can help you make the most out of your prosthesis, you can buy prosthetic socks in bulk so you can accommodate for daily fluctuations in limb volume. Prosthetic socks are available in various sizes to accommodate any circumference or length of the residual limb. You can also choose from a variety of materials—cotton, nylon, wool, and even synthetic blends.
If you’re at a loss for the right type and brand of sock, you can ask your Prosthetist or our Customer Success Team for recommendations. If you’re interested in a particular brand or sock type, it’s best to talk to your Prosthetist first so you can cover all the bases to assure utmost comfort. However, if you end up buying a sock that doesn’t quite meet your needs, don’t take them off and resort to wearing your prosthesis without it. This action can prove to be detrimental not only to your skin health but also to your bone and muscle health.