Rehabilitation for an amputee presents a unique set of physical and emotional challenges, especially when the procedure is unplanned or due to trauma. We recognize the different physical and emotional stages that an amputee will progress through, as well as the unique attention required during each stage. Initially, infection control is key to making sure the limb...
Real Life Experiences
Bill underwent an amputation of his right lower leg due to severe circulatory problems and infection. He experienced a lot of pain and discomfort with this illness and was unable to walk because of it. He was treated for his pain prior to his amputation and felt some improvement. Bill complained of pain and burning in his stump after the surgery. His physical therapist, Joan, performed a careful examination of the bone and soft tissues in his stump to identify possible skin breakdown, infection, or abnormal pressure points. Joan helped Bill with the stump pain by applying appropriate stump shrinkers for compression, massage of the stump, electrical stimulation and exercise to improve his symptoms. Since the amputation, Bill is also noticing that it feels like his amputated leg is still there. He feels his foot itching at times. He even forgot his leg was amputated and tried to stand up on it, almost falling. Bill’s physical therapist explains that what he is experiencing is phantom-limb sensation. She assures him that this sensation is very common after amputation and can improve over time. She helps him learn how to move and walk safely with his amputation. A few weeks later, Bill tells his physical therapist that he is experiencing intermittent burning and tingling sensations in his amputated limb. He thinks the pressure of his pants leg could be causing the pain. His physical therapist teaches him about phantom limb pain. She prescribes exercises to help improve his perception of his right leg and the brain’s representation or body image of the affected part. Bill learns and practices desensitization of the stump, mirror visual feedback/mirror box exercises, and movement imagery training over the next several weeks. Bill begins to notice his symptoms are not as easily triggered and do not occur as much. He has also started using his prosthetic leg more. His physical therapist works with his prosthetist to ensure the prosthesis continues to fit well. She continues to train Bill on the proper use of the prosthetic leg, and is helping him increase the amount of time he wears it daily. Bill continues his program daily with less phantom pain as well as improved strength, walking, and well-being.