Rehabilitation after Amputation

August 04, 2023
Rehabilitation after Amputation

Rehabilitation After Amputation

Loss of a limb is a life changing experience.  It affects your ability to move, to take care of yourself, to work, and to maintain your independence.  Not only does it change your ability to function, but it also impacts your self-image and can leave you with chronic pain.  Because of this, rehabilitation after amputation is a very important piece of recovery.

The goal of rehabilitation after an amputation is to help the patient return to the highest level of function and independence possible, while improving the overall quality of life--physically, emotionally, and socially.

Stages of Rehabilitation After Amputation:  What to Expect

There are different reasons for amputation and each person has unique medical issues that shape the recovery process.  Variables that affect the rehab process including:

  • Level and type of amputation
  • Type and degree of any resulting impairments and disabilities
  • Overall health of the patient
  • Family support

So, although these factors influence the process, there are 4 stages of rehabilitation a person undergoes after amputation:

 Pre-Amputation Rehabilitation

Pre-surgery rehabilitation or “Pre-Habilitation” program is designed to help prepare you, both mentally and physically, for your upcoming surgery so that you can have a great outcome.  You will come to the out-patient clinic 3 times per week for 2-3 weeks prior to your surgery. The goals of the Pre-Habilitation program are to:

  • Have clear, realistic expectations of what the surgery recovery process will entail
  • Understand how to reduce pain and control inflammation
  • Maximize upper and lower body strength, flexibility and range of motion prior to surgery
  • Improve muscular control of the injured joint
  • Normalize gait and movement patterns prior to your surgery
  • Identify and obtain wheelchair, mobility and adaptive equipment necessary for the rehabilitation process
  • Gain a good understanding of the exercises that you will perform immediately after surgery

 In the Hospital 

  • On the day of your surgery, your surgeon will talk to you about what will happen and answer any questions you have. 
  • You will start physical therapy soon after your surgery.   It may include gentle stretching, special exercises, and help getting in and out of bed or a wheelchair.
  • Your prosthetist will visit you soon after surgery and will measure you, talk to you about your prosthesis options, or instruct you how to use the prosthesis.
  • You will stay in the hospital for several days.

 Post-Amputation Rehabilitation

When you leave the hospital, you will have several options for how to continue your therapy:

  • In-patient rehabilitation for 1-2 weeks
  • Home health therapy for 2-4 weeks
  • Out-patient therapy for 4-8 weeks

 The goals of the post-surgery rehabilitation program are:

  • Wound healing
  • Pain and edema control
  • Fall prevention
  • Maximize upper and lower body strength, flexibility and range of motion after surgery
  • Maximize standing balance
  • Transfer training
  • Home modification and adaptive equipment training
  • Training in how to put on and take off socks, shrinkers and prosthesis

 Advanced Amputation Rehabilitation

After you have completed your post-surgery rehabilitation, you may be ready for advanced rehabilitation services.  Advanced rehabilitation is completed in an out-patient setting and is tailored to your specific goals.  How often and how long you attend therapy depends on your goals.  The focus of advanced rehabilitation is:

  • High level gait training, walking, and/or running with prosthesis
  • Advance wheelchair skills
  • Return to sports
  • Return to driving

 Life After Amputation Rehabilitation

The rehabilitation program is designed to help you return to the highest level of function and independence possible.  This results in an improved overall quality of life --physically, emotionally, and socially. Being actively involved in the process is key to the success of the program.  And active involvement of family and friends helps recovery by providing positive reinforcement.  This, together with a competent team of doctors, nurses, physical and occupational therapists, and other healthcare providers will help you focus on maximizing your capabilities at home and in the community.