Leg Prosthesis – Tips for Above Knee Amputees

Successfully using your leg prosthesis is a confidence game.  Very often a fall or misadventure when learning to use your leg prosthesis will greatly and adversely affect your ability to “trust” your prosthesis and learn to incorporate it’s use with confidence in your daily life.

Whenever I lecture to physiotherapists who train amputees in the use of their leg prosthesis, I stress the importance of avoiding an “unsuccessful experience.”  To do this, it is essential for the therapist and amputee to heed some basic laws of physics and plain old common sense.  A common scenario would be in learning to go down stairs, especially in the case of an above knee amputee.

Here’s what to do if you have a  * mechanical knee that WILL NOT support your body weight when it is bent:

  1. Start your practice on the lowest step
  2.  To come down stairs safely, the leg prosthesis must always come down first.  It should be placed in the middle of the step below you
  3.  Aim to keep your body erect, firmly push back with your stump to help keep your prosthetic knee straight.  Bring your unaffected leg down to the same step as your leg prosthesis.

By doing it this way, the safety of your prosthetic knee will not be compromised.  Common sense recommends practicing this on the lowest step first.  It’s safer and you don’t have to deal with the psychology of starting to learn from any great height.


Here’s what to do if you have a  * microprocessor knee joint or one that WILL support your body weight when it is bent:

1.  Seek out training with a physiotherapist/physical therapist that is experienced in training an amputee with this type of knee joint
2.  Start your practice on the lowest step
3.  Two thirds of your prosthetic foot should be placed over the edge of the step
4.  As you put your weight onto the leg prosthesis, your microprocessor knee will bend under your body weight.  This will allow you time to place your intact leg on the step below.  You must put your weight on the prosthetic leg as soon as it     starts to bend because the amount of resistance to knee bending is at its greatest in the first few degrees.
5.  This method of descent needs a lot of training and practice but the results are great and make it worthwhile.
From mastering stairs, you will then be able to learn to safely go up and down a large flight of stairs and walk down slopes.  But like anything worthwhile in life, it requires practice, practice and more practice.

* If you are unsure of the type of knee you have, check with your prosthetist first.  The most important thing is that you receive the correct prosthetic training in the use of your particular prosthetic  componentry.


Until next time … Cathy …. The Amputee Coach

3 Comments to “Leg Prosthesis – Tips for Above Knee Amputees”

  1. Mel 18 April 2012 at 9:20 am #

    Great topic Ladies and very valid. I’ll never forget the ‘good leg to heaven – bad leg to hell’ saying. It always reminded me that the prosthesis went first going down stairs and the good leg first going up. While I had a number of falls in the early stages of learning to walk; the saying must have paid off, because none of those ever happened on stairs!

  2. Amlan Bhattacharjee 18 April 2013 at 10:03 am #

    One of my close relatives wife recently lost both her legs above knee one week back in an train accident i would like to know the address and details of best artificial leg implant(above knee) in India.

    • Cathy Howells 15 May 2013 at 3:10 am #

      Amlan, Unfortunately I’m not familiar with any artificial limb centres or the system of prosthetic supply in India

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