Amputation rehabilitation is an ongoing process that is different for every individual. However, there are some common steps in the recovery process that every patient can expect to encounter. The emotional response to an amputation will vary, but the physical response is easier to prepare for, especially if you know more about what to expect in advance.
Amputation Rehabilitation: Week 1
The first week after surgery, the surgical site needs a lot of attention. At first the medical staff will change dressings, but in many cases they will show you how to do it yourself in preparation for leaving the hospital. The healing process is monitored closely and antibiotics are administered to prevent infection. You will also likely receive medication to help manage the pain immediately following amputation surgery. If you are experiencing phantom limb pain or intense emotions related to the loss of a limb, your doctor may recommend counseling.
Compression is a key component during this stage of the healing process because it helps to reduce swelling and prevents fluid build-up in the residual limb. Cold therapy may also be used to help manage pain and reduce the need for medication.
Amputation Rehabilitation: Weeks 2-4
Physical therapy typically starts as soon after surgery as possible. Early in the process, gentle stretching is recommended to help improve blood flow and to maintain a healthy range of motion. You may also start to learn how to do daily activities such as dressing yourself, changing bandages, showering, and other skills that will allow you to be more independent.
You may also start practicing with an artificial limb as soon as ten days after surgery. The sooner you can get used to walking with an artificial limb, the faster the recovery process will be.
Amputation Rehabilitation: Months 2-3
Your residual limb should be completely healed within a couple months, but rehabilitation does not stop when the surgical site is healed. Your residual limb will continue to change over time, which means that prosthetics must be re-fitted occasionally. You may also find that the use of a prosthetic limb causes swelling or irritation, especially during the first few months of use. Using cold therapy and active compression can help reduce pain and swelling; it also helps the residual limb maintain shape for a longer period of time.
Game Ready's new amputee wrap is designed to help speed the recovery process after a below-the-knee amputation. In the first weeks after surgery, the active compression pumps fluid away from the residual limb and promotes healthy circulation to help speed up the healing process. The consistent cold therapy also helps reduce pain and prevents secondary tissue growth. Talk to your doctor about getting a Game Ready system for your amputation rehabilitation process.
Download our free guide to amputee recovery for more helpful tips and advice.