What You Need to Know Before Being Fitted for A Prosthetic

prosthetic leg appointment

Receiving a prosthetic is an extensive process, with many factors that patients may be unaware of until they are well underway. However, being well-informed about what to expect when receiving a prosthetic ensures you are adequately prepared and makes the entire process smoother.

To help you navigate this exciting process, Lawall Prosthetics & Orthotics has created this guide outlining everything you need to know before being fitted for a prosthetic, including preparations you should make and what the fitting process will look like.

Pre-Prosthetic Preparation

When preparing for your prosthetic, your prosthetic team will create a care plan to help you prepare your body and limb for the prosthetic, ensuring a smoother transition. Aspects of this care plan may include:

Limb Shaping

Your prosthetist will provide a shrinker sock, and it is essential to wear it at all times to help shape the limb for the prosthesis.

Following amputation, it is natural for the residual limb to experience swelling, even after the surgical wound itself has healed. However, it is essential to reduce swelling to ensure the residual limb fits into the prosthesis socket. A shrinker sock, also known as a compression sock, can help reduce swelling in the residual limb.

When wearing your shrinker sock, it is crucial to avoid bunching or wrinkling and to keep the sock smooth and pulled tautly. Doing this will ensure there is a snug fit at all times. Wear the sock at all times of the day except when bathing.

Your prosthetist will want to see you multiple times while limb shaping to monitor the size of your residual limb and ensure it is the proper size when receiving your prosthetic.

Skin Care

Keeping your residual limb clean is crucial for preventing infections or other skin problems. Because of this, it is vital to prioritize the following hygiene habits.

Wash your residual limb at least once daily using a mild antibacterial soap and clean water. One should use a washcloth and gently scrub all surfaces of the residual limb, especially paying attention to the skin on the bottom of your limb and behind your knee.

After washing your residual limb, dry it thoroughly to ensure no moisture is trapped between the skin and the shrinker sock.

woman with prosthetic legs

Additionally, wearing a clean shrinker sock each day is vital, as shrinker socks can hold on to acids and salt left behind by your sweat. When washing your shrinker sock, use mild soap and water and allow it to air dry completely.

Maintain Correct Residual Limb Positioning

Contracture is the shortening and tightening of a muscle that can prevent the limb from achieving its full range of motion; to prevent this, you should keep the residual limb in the proper position requires keeping the knee and hip as straight as possible.

 Some tips for this include:

– Spend 15-20 minutes each day lying on your stomach. This position stretches the muscles at the front of the hip, which can become tight when sitting.

– Support your residual limb when sitting to keep it from hanging or dangling. An amputee board can help those sitting in a wheelchair or a regular chair.

– For above-the-knee amputations, keep your residual limb near the intact leg

– Keep your residual limb flat when lying down, and don’t prop it on blankets or pillows. The goal is to keep your knee as straight as possible.

Taking the time to focus on these positioning rules now will go a long way in easing the transition to a prosthetic.

Muscle Strengthening and Stretching

To further prevent contracture, it is essential to continue working on muscle-strengthening exercises as laid out by your rehabilitation team. Additionally, strengthening your muscles ensures greater success when receiving your prosthetic, as the intact and residual limbs need to be strong to use a prosthetic.

In addition to muscle strengthening, it is also important to stretch the muscles to keep your limbs flexible, which supports your full range of motion and makes it easier to use your prosthetic.

Man weightlifting with leg prosthetics

Limb Desensitization

The skin on your residual limb is likely to be sensitive to the touch at first, which can cause pain. Performing desensitization exercises helps prepare your limb for a prosthetic. Actions such as tapping, rubbing, and massaging your residual limb can help your limb become accustomed to pressure and touch, gradually increasing its tolerance.

For the greatest success, we recommend starting with light and gentle touches, gradually increasing pressure as you experience less pain. It also helps to introduce your limb to varying fabrics, starting with smooth materials such as silk and working up to fabrics that are rougher.

By performing desensitization, you are helping to prepare your body for the prosthetic fitting.

The Initial Visit

During your first visit to Lawall Prosthetics & Orthotics, one of our expert prosthetists will give an overview of the clinical care process we follow and explain why it is vital for a partnership between the patient (you) and the practitioner (us).

Once the preliminary steps are completed, your prosthetist will begin asking questions to understand you better and what you are looking for from the treatment.

To get the best prosthetic for you, be sure to discuss with your prosthetist the following:

– occupation
– lifestyle
– interests
– activity level
– treatment goals

Your answers to these areas will help your prosthetist design the best prosthetic to meet your individual needs.

Your prosthetist will also need to measure, scan, and cast your limb to make your prosthetic. Often, this consists of being fitted with a clear diagnostic test socket, which allows for modifications and adjustments before a final prosthetic is created.

Follow-Up Visits

Completing follow-up visits with your physician is crucial to preparing for your prosthetic. During these visits, your physician can check the healing progress of your limb and determine if the swelling has gone down enough (and healing has progressed enough) to move on to the next stage: meeting with a prosthetist to begin the process of building the prosthetic.

Boy with arm prosthetics

Receiving Your Prosthesis

When first receiving your prosthesis, your prosthetist will demonstrate how to put your device on and off while evaluating the fit and function and making any necessary adjustments.

When it is finally time to begin using your prosthesis, your prosthetist will provide a wear-in schedule that is essential to follow. The plan helps your body become acclimated to the prosthetic by gradually increasing the time you wear it.

Even when you have received your prosthetic, you still need to finish seeing your prosthetist. This is because, during the first year, your residual limb continues to change shapes. Because of this, it is essential to see your prosthetist regularly so that they can modify and adjust your fitting. In some cases, you may even need a new socket or prosthesis, so do not be alarmed if this happens.

When you have your prosthesis, you will continue with physical therapy or occupation therapy (depending on whether it is a lower or upper limb amputation) to continue strengthening and training your muscles.

Timelines Vary by Patient

When receiving a prosthesis, one of the most important things to remember is that there is no set timeline, and everyone’s journey is different. This is because everyone heals and progresses at different times, which is why your prosthetist is looking for your residual limb to be ready for a prosthesis, and not for a specific amount of time to have passed.

Woman on track with leg prosthetics

Peer Support

Getting a prosthetic is a significant process. While the care team at Lawall is always available to answer questions and offer support, many of our patients find it helpful to meet with a peer visitor or someone who has already gone through this process. Using their own experience as a guide, the peer visitor can help answer any questions you may have.

For those interested in meeting with a peer visitor or joining a support group, Lawall can help you.

The Prosthesis Process: A Summary

A prosthesis is a valuable device that can allow someone to move around more efficiently or make it possible for them to function independently. However, patients are often unaware of many aspects of the process, which can lead to surprises.

One of the most important first steps is properly preparing the body for a prosthetic by limb shaping, desensitizing the residual limb, and maintaining good hygiene. Taking extra care to follow the preparation steps laid out by your doctor will help you prepare your body for the prosthetic. 

Once the residual limb is ready, the prosthetist will perform a range of imaging and measurements to gain all the information needed to create a perfect-fitting prosthetic. However, many test prosthetics and adjustments may be required before the final product is made.

The work is ongoing once the prosthetic is received, too, since there are schedules to follow, physical and occupational therapy, and follow-up appointments. However, the final result of all this effort is a prosthetic created explicitly for you and your needs.

If you have questions about the prosthetic process, contact Lawall Prosthetics & Orthotics, and we can answer your questions or connect you with a support group or peer visitor. There may be a lot that goes into receiving a prosthesis, but we ensure that you will never be alone in this journey.