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Do’s and Don’ts to Prevent a Contracture

Losing a limb not only affects the amputation site, but also the whole body, and can affect mobility and function dramatically. For this reason, it's critical to know how to avoid complications post-amputation, such as a contracture.

Amputation contractures happen when the soft tissue that is closest to where the amputation was is shortening, tightening and contracting. For example, if you’re a BKA, you could have a contracture in the knee joint. This could affect your ability to wear your prosthetic, due to not being able to fully straighten your knee and bend your leg easily. Here are some tips on what to do and not to do to avoid a contracture. 

If you’re a Below Knee Amputee (BKA) 

  • Do keep your limb supported and knee straight when you sit. To do this, you can use a chair of the same height. 
  • Do lie flat on your stomach. This stretches the muscles at the front of your hips, which prevents contractures from developing after being seated for too long. 
  • DO NOT sleep with your limb on a pillow. This inhibits the leg from completely being able to straighten. 

If you’re an Above Knee Amputee (AKA)

  • DO NOT sleep with your limb on a pillow. This inhibits your hip from being able to completely straighten. 
  •  DO NOT sleep with a pillow between your legs. This strengthens your inner thigh muscle that helps keeps legs together, but shortens the outer thigh muscles so that you walk and stand with your feet apart. 

For both AKA and BKA

  • DO NOT put your limb in a bent position. Keeping the knee/hip joint flexed for long periods can disturb blood circulation and cause muscle contracture.
  • Make sure to take your shower/bath at night. This is due to your limb swelling when it’s in hot water and when it’s dangling which makes it difficult to put on your prosthesis.
  • Put your shrinker on at night and put your prosthesis on as soon as you get up.
  • It is ok to rest your limb in an elevated position as this can reduce pain and swelling, but do make sure your limb stays straight. 

About the Author

Alicia Woodman is No Limbits’ Community Manager. She holds a degree in Communication and Legal Studies from the University of Illinois Springfield and is a former Ms. Wheelchair Illinois USA. Alicia was born with Spina Bifida and a RBKA as of 2020. In her free time, Alicia loves watching the TV show House, shopping and crafting.

Sources: 

https://www.amputee-coalition.org/resources/tips-for-taking-care/

https://www.arnolditkin.com/blog/injury/how-to-prevent-amputation-contractures/

https://www.ossur.com/en-us/prosthetics/prosthetic-users-info/information-for-lower-limb-amputees/life-without-limitations-lower-limb/self-care-tips

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