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After surgery: How to position your residual limb while relaxing

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

In a straight position

 

Resist the habit of putting your residual limb in a flexed (bent) position – for example, supporting it on the handle of a crutch, hanging it over the side of a bed or keeping the knee joint flexed when sitting on a bed. If the knee or hip joint remains flexed for long periods, this can disturb blood circulation and cause muscle contracture.

  • For below-knee amputations: When seated, always keep your residual limb supported and the 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.
  • 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 the contractures that develop when seated for too long. Try to spend 15 to 20 minutes in this position several times per day.

In an elevated position

Resting your residual limb in an elevated position can also help reduce pain and swelling. Just remember to keep it straight, especially when resting it on something like a cushion, where it may inadvertently bend. A piece of foam cut to size and in the right shape works very well to elevated the residual limb, while keeping it straight.