Prosthetic Comfort: The Effect of Residual Limb Stability
Let us begin by saying, residual limb volume stability is directly related to your socket comfort. So, how can you achieve volume stability?
Defining Residual Limb Stability
In this context, stability refers to the shrinking and swelling of your residual limb. Walking with your prosthesis helps remove fluid accumulated, however sitting in a chair for an extended period can cause swelling. Because of this, dramatic changes in residual limb size can make it difficult when it comes to maintaining an accurate and issue-free socket fit.
A stable residual limb becomes even more important and challenging if you have diabetes with compromised circulation. In this case, maintaining stability may save your skin from friction and blisters that oftentimes take longer to heal.
Below are some tips that you can do today to improve your residual limb stability.
Maintain a Healthy and Stable Weight
Make sure to eat the right foods and follow a healthy diet plan. This helps convert fat into lean muscles that can make it easier to maintain your weight within in a healthy range.
Body weight fluctuations can wreak havoc on overall residual limb health and skin integrity. Maintaining your weight will extend the life of your prosthesis. Otherwise, you may need a socket change after gaining more than 20-30lbs.
Depending on how your body carries this extra weight, you may find that your residual limb is unable to seat itself entirely inside your socket. This effectively creates a longer leg length, which then leads to prosthetic issues such as lower back pain, excess chafing, and sweating, among others.
On the flip side, losing weight has its own set of challenges and prosthetic issues. If you are planning to go on a diet, which may result in a weight loss greater than 20 pounds, get your prosthetist involved so they can monitor your socket fit and make any necessary adjustments as you lose weight.
Furthermore, starting a recurring schedule of appointments with your prosthetist also creates a well-documented paper trail of adjustments that can be used in your favor when requesting a new socket from an insurer.
Tips for Staying Healthy
Always watch what you eat and minimize the occasional junk food, pizza, and burger. The majority of your diet must be balanced and healthy. Also, make sure you are taking minerals, fruits, vegetables, and proteins that are proportionate to your body's needs. If you're not sure what your body needs, consult a dietician.
Keep an open discussion with your doctor or healthcare provider about your diet, and ask which types of exercises suit your body type. The benefits of being physically active go beyond weight maintenance; it also helps with your overall mental and emotional health.
For amputees with diabetes, consult your doctor if you need a registered dietician to help you plan your meals and regulate your physical activity.
Consider wearing a prosthetic shrinker at night and especially during the day when you're not wearing your prosthesis. A shrinker can help keep your residual limb volume stable.
Before attempting any exercise, make sure that you have your doctor's or physical therapist's consent. Certain physical activities can be too intense and even harmful if not implemented correctly. You don't need to push yourself too hard; small, consistent steps have a more long-lasting positive impact. Furthermore, consistency is an essential element for your body to get used to a particular physical activity as muscles gain strength gradually.
The Bottom Line
Working towards residual limb stability is a holistic process. While stocking up on amputee supplies—particularly prosthetic shrinkers—can help you maintain stability or adjust to volume changes, you still need to combine this with proper nutrition and exercise.
What about you? Do you have specific tips to maintain residual limb stability? Share it with us in the comments below.