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Positioning Your Limb After Surgery

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September 4th, 2019

Innovative Prosthetics Blog Limb Positioning

After a leg amputation, it is very important to keep your residual limb positioned correctly to prevent complications such as muscle contractures, to maintain a full range of motion in your remaining joints, and to promote healthy blood circulation.

There are two recommended positions post-surgery: straight and elevated. As a general guideline, your residual limb should never be bent. We recommend you are extra careful about limb placement while sleeping. Limb positioning is incredibly important because it directly impacts your recovery time. 

Today we’ll walk you through how to best position your body in both poses.

In a Straight Position:

Resist the habit of putting your residual limb in a flexed (bent) position. Avoid hanging it over the side of a bed or keeping the knee joint flexed when sitting on a bed or flat surface. 

  • For below-knee amputations only: When seated, always keep your residual limb supported and your knee straight. In a wheelchair you can use an “amputee board”, and on a regular chair use a second chair of the same height to support your residual limb. Do not let your residual limb ever dangle. 
  • For both below-knee and above-knee amputations: Lying flat on your stomach stretches the muscles at the front of your hips, which can help combat contractures that may develop from being seated for too long. Try to spend 15-20 minutes in this position, several times a day. 

In an Elevated Position:

Resting your residual limb in an elevated position can also help to reduce pain and swelling. Just remember to keep it straight, especially when resting it on something soft like a cushion. A plush cushion may inadvertently cause the residual limb to bend.

  • For both below-knee and above-knee amputations: The best way to elevate your residual limb is to use a piece of firm foam, cut to the right size. Ask your doctor or physical therapist for more details.

You can set yourself up for an easier transition to walking if you are intentional about your recovery. As a reminder, you should call your surgeon right away if your dressing falls off, if you catch a sudden fever, or if there is an increase in wound pain, swelling, temperature, or tenderness. You should also be aware of the smell and the drainage coming from your wound. 

We wish you a safe and speedy recovery post-op. Take advantage of the time to rest and don’t be discouraged – you’ll be back at it in no time! 

Every prosthesis is unique just like our patients.

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