A prosthetic changes a person’s life. The return to — or addition of — increased mobility affords the person a level of independence they haven’t seen before. It’s liberating. It’s exciting. However, it can also take a lot of work to get to this point.
Movement on an artificial leg has been improved through advances in technology over the last couple decades. There are a lot of available capabilities for an artificial leg that weren’t previously seen.
But the muscles that control the leg and the mechanics of walking haven’t been used in this way before. There are internal systems of balance and control that will need to be trained and practiced before natural movement will be possible.
This might take some work, but it is very possible to attain these natural movements with a little care and attention.
So what can a person do to get comfortable on an artificial leg? Here are some tips.
Difference Between Above-the Knee and Below-the-Knee Prosthetics
The first thing to realize is that the process is going to be different depending on the type of artificial leg that is used. And the main difference will come in two forms: Above-the-knee prosthetics and below-the-knee prosthetics.
Above-the-knee prosthetics are going to be more intricate, as they have to account for an absence of the knee joint. This will make balancing more difficult. A prosthetic wearer might feel less stable on this type of device and increase the risk of falling.
Below-the-knee prosthetics will be able to work in tandem with the wearer’s knee socket, which provides additional levels of stability.
Get a Proper Fit
Working with a professional in the prosthetics industry will help to get a proper fit for the device. This is the first step in working toward regaining natural and reliable movements.
The device should be secure on the leg without sliding around. Any movement between the leg and the device could result in rubbing, which could irritate the skin. This becomes uncomfortable and can lead to more serious skin issues.
A proper fit also means the device will be more stable. This will make it easier for the wearer to find a balance as they learn to use it.
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Take your time when learning to walk on your artificial leg. Don’t immediately run for the stairs. If possible, use parallel bars for support as you take your first steps. This provides security and gives you the confidence you need to focus on the mechanics of walking without worrying about falling.
This is going to be a process. Results will come quick enough, so don’t rush yourself.
Focus on Shifting Your Weight
Many of us don’t think about what’s going on as we walk. There’s an almost imperceptible switch of our weight between our legs as we take steps. This becomes an unconscious movement over time, but will take practice to master on an artificial leg.
Improving your gait to where it feels and looks natural will come with time, but you must first focus on fluidly moving your weight between your legs as you walk along the parallel bars. This is the foundation of walking comfortably, so take your time to get it right.
Repetition Builds Confidence
And once you find yourself comfortable with the basic mechanics of walking, practice it over and over. This provides benefits even after you begin to feel comfortable. One major cognitive achievement during this process will be confidence. Once you achieve this confidence, you’ll feel more comfortable as you navigate the world with your artificial leg.
Set daily goals for yourself where you practice mindful walking. Pay attention to how and when you shift your weight. Study your gait and find ways to make it look and feel more natural.
A natural gait is the first goal of learning to use an artificial leg, but true stability is the ultimate goal. Work toward this by utilizing pointed exercises toward strengthening your legs and core.
Balancing on one leg, bouncing a ball while walking, and balancing a stick in your hand might seem like basic exercises, but they take a level of balance and stability that will help those with an artificial leg.
This can progress to walking in various terrains, carrying everyday items such as groceries, and standing up from a lying position.
Take Care of the Artificial Leg
The artificial leg itself needs daily care in order to provide its full potential for benefits. Keep it clean by washing the liner. Sweat can build up over the day which can grow bacteria and create an unpleasant odor.
You should also be sure to take care of the skin around the artificial leg. Wash it frequently. Pay attention to any sore or red spots. Daily maintenance will save the pain and hassle of larger problems down the road.