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Coping With the Loss of a Limb
- Denial and isolation
- Acceptance and hope
Phantom Sensation and Phantom Limb Pain
- Seek help. Let your family and friends help you out. This may be difficult because they do not know exactly what you are experiencing, but give them a chance. You may even help them by communicating your needs.
- Exercise. The traditional benefits of exercising—strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular endurance—all still apply to a person with limb loss. Improving your balance and coordination and increasing circulation are especially helpful for regaining physical functioning. Research shows that exercise can help you learn to love and respect your body again. A study in the American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation found that people with lower limb amputations were more likely to have a positive body image if they regularly participated in physical activity.
- Talk. One of the first strategies when coping with limb loss is to talk with another amputee who has undergone a similar situation. They have been through it and can offer a different point of view than your nonaffected friends or family. Whenever possible, this should also be done before limb removal to help mentally prepare you for what lies ahead. Ask your doctor or physical therapist if they know of someone in your situation who you might be able to talk to. Or turn to a local or online support group. For more support, or in the case of clinical depression, there is professional therapy. Your doctor can provide you with a referral to a social worker or psychologist.
- If possible, go back to work. Returning to work will help you rebuild your sense of self and purpose.
Achieving a Sense of Well Being
American Physical Therapy Association http://www.apta.org
Amputee Coalition of America http://www.amputee-coalition.org
Amputee Coalition of Canada http://amputeecoalitioncanada.org
The College of Canadian Family Physicians http://www.cfpc.ca
Axelrod, J. The 5 Stages of Loss and Grief. Psych Central website. Available at: http://psychcentral.com/lib/the-5-stages-of-loss-and-grief/000617. Accessed on September 9, 2013.
Fisher K, Hanspal RS, Marks L. Return to work after lower limb amputation. Int J Rehabil Res. 2003;26(1):51-56.
Gallagher P, MacLachlan M. Psychological adjustment and coping in adults with prosthetic limbs. Behavioral Medicine. 1999;25(3):117-124.
Maguire P, Parkes CM. Surgery and loss of body parts. BMJ. 1998;316(7137):1086-1088.
Pain: Hope through research. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/chronic%5Fpain/detail%5Fchronic%5Fpain.htm. Updated August 30, 2013. Accessed September 9, 2013.
Smith DG. Facing Amputation: Questions to ask your surgeon and rehabilitation team. First Step: A Guide for Adapting to Limb Loss. 2003;3:7-11.
Wetterhahn KA, Hanson C, Levy CE. Effect of participation in physical activity on body image of amputees. Am J Phys Med Rehabil. 2002;81(3):194-201.
Williamson GM. Living with limb differences: building self-esteem. First Step: A Guide for Adapting to Limb Loss. 2001;2:72–73.
van der Schans CP, Geertzen, JH, Schoppen, T, Dijkstra, PU. Phantom pain and health-related quality of life in lower limb amputees. J Pain Symptom Manage. 2002;24(4):429-436.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 09/2013
- Update Date: 00/90/2013