Amputees & Walking Aids

Most lower limb amputees will need to use a walking aid for a certain period of time when learning to walk with their leg prosthesis. Which aid is chosen for you has some important implications for your progress with your gait training.  Last week I discussed the use of a walking
stick, this time I’m going to address the issues of using quadsticks, crutches and frames when walking with your leg prosthesis.

If you have read The Amputee Coach Book you will know that I am not a fan of the quadstick for amputees.  In fact I have never given one to an amputee to walk with.  The reason for this is one of safety, in that I cannot see the sense in placing those prongs near an insensitive foot
and that I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone use one correctly.  In my opinion it is better to work a bit harder on your balance and strength and go straight to using a stick.  If you feel the standard walking stick is not offering you enough support, then try one with a molded handle.
These sticks are generally more comfortable to use when you need to take a little more weight on them.

Often I will see a new lower limb amputee who is referred to me because they are having difficulty learning to walk with their leg prosthesis. Many times they will present walking with one or two crutches.  Crutches make learning to walk with a prosthesis difficult for several reasons.

Firstly and I think most importantly, they don’t allow you to weight bear on your prosthesis in the correct alignment because you are inevitably leaning forward and so your hips are bent.  This means that you are not going to extend your hip strongly as you walk over your leg prosthesis and will find it difficult to master control of your knee joint be it either anatomical or prosthetic.

Secondly using crutches does not allow you to transfer your weight adequately onto the prosthesis.  This means that your residual limb will have difficulty adapting to the increasing pressure required to walk with a prosthesis, and you cannot determine whether or not your socket is truly well fitting.  Learning to walk in the parallel bars offers you the opportunity to quickly overcome these issues.

Often elderly and less mobile amputees will require a frame to walk with.  Many times I have been asked to teach them to use crutches; however I usually resist after assessing their balance and strength erring on the side of stability and safety.  After all, the use of crutches still requires that both hands are used and being separate entities makes them much more difficult for lower limb amputees to control.

Walking aides are there to help, but being confident with your balance will ensure you use them to your best advantage.

I look forward to hearing your commetns, questions and feedback.

Until next time … Cathy …. The Amputee Coach

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