Above-Knee vs. Below-Knee: The Steps Necessary in Learning to Walk With a Prosthetic Leg

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Above-Knee vs. Below-Knee: The Steps Necessary in Learning to Walk With a Prosthetic Leg

Above-Knee vs. Below-Knee: The Steps Necessary in Learning to Walk With a Prosthetic Leg

Depending on whether you are an above-knee or below-knee amputee, your path to mobility with a prosthetic leg will be slightly different.

A custom prosthetic leg allows you to slowly regain mobility and return to your favorite activities after undergoing an above-knee or below-knee amputation. Learning to use your new prosthesis effectively involves following a number of steps over a course of several months. As you learn how to walk and regain your independence, your Arkansas prosthetist will be there for you every step of the way.

Above-Knee vs. Below-Knee Prosthetic Legs

Working toward mobility with a prosthetic leg can differ depending on whether you have had an above-knee or a below-knee amputation. A below-knee amputation leaves your knee joint in tact, which provides more stability overall and does not cause as much difficulty with bearing the weight of your body as you walk.

An amputation above-the-knee involves removing this joint entirely, requiring a prosthetic leg that also incorporates a microprocessor-controlled prosthetic knee joint. This can leave you feeling like you have less natural stability. Above-knee amputations can also make it more difficult to bear weight on your affected leg, which increases your risk of falling. As you learn to walk with an above-knee prosthetic leg, you can expect to use assistive devices like a walker, for a longer period than below-knee amputees do.

Step 1

Your initial recovery time post-amputation will take place in a wheelchair. This reduces the risk of falls and allows you to cope physically with the immediate effects of surgery. Once you build up enough strength to bear weight on your legs through physical therapy, you can be fitted with short prosthetic training feet to help re-learn to balance and practice becoming mobile again.

These training feet serve as an intermediate device that assists you in gradually building up strength and endurance while working on making basic movements. Experts agree that skipping this intermediary step can cause emotional and physical setbacks in the recovery of amputees, so utilizing training feet is a key part of the process.

Step 2

When you are comfortable with being mobile while using training feet, you can continue the learning process with prosthetic leg devices that gradually provide you with increasing height (usually adding two inches at a time). This gives you with a way to slowly adjust to a prosthetic leg as you build the strength needed to use a full-length prosthetic leg. In each step in this process, you will likely use assistive devices, such as walkers or canes, to offer more stability during your physical therapy sessions.

Step 3

When you have learned to be mobile with graduated height increases in their prostheses, you will the fitted with then be fitted for a custom, full-length prosthetic leg. If you have had an above-knee amputation, you will be fitted for a prosthetic leg that includes a fully functional knee joint.

During this stage, you will learn to maneuver these joints in order to mimic a natural walking gait and perform basic movements, such as sitting down and standing up while using bending motions. Finally, you will gradually work on being able to achieve mobility without the use of assistive devices. Overall, this learning process can take up to one year, especially if you have had an above-knee amputation.

Remember that building confidence and staying healthy is key to the process of learning to walk with a prosthetic leg. Your family, friends, and therapists will be there to help you practice walking, but seeking out support from other amputees can be incredibly beneficial. Check out ABLE to learn more about amputee support group meetings in Arkansas.

If you need a prosthetic leg in Arkansas, contact Horton Orthotics & Prosthetics at 501-683-8889 to schedule an appointment. We have several offices throughout the state, including locations in Little Rock, North Little Rock, Bryant, Searcy, and Fort Smith.

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