Survivorship: Life After Amputation

Author: Carolyn Vachani, MSN, RN
Last Reviewed:

Having a limb (arm or leg) removed is called amputation. Losing an arm or leg can cause both physical and mental challenges.

Coping with Amputation

You may feel depressed, anxious, or have low self-esteem given the changes in your life. Joining a support group may be helpful in coping with the changes and challenges caused by your amputation. Amputee-coalition.org can help you find a local support group. If your sadness or worry become too difficult to manage or interfere with your daily life, ask your provider for a referral to a therapist or counselor.

Physical Concerns After Amputation

Physical issues after an amputation can include:

  • Phantom limb pain - pain that seems to be coming from the arm or leg that is not there anymore. This may feel like burning, twisting, itching, or pressure. It can be triggered by certain things which can be different for each person. You can learn what causes your pain and try to avoid it. Work with your care team to find medicines and other ways to ease this pain. Phantom limb pain may lessen over the first 6 months after surgery. But some people will have some pain for years after.
  • Arthritis and pain in other joints and muscles. Your other limb may feel weak or tired due to the extra work it is doing and the weight it is holding.
  • After amputation, you will need more energy to do your normal daily tasks. You may also need more time to do these tasks. Physical therapy (PT) and rehabilitation specialists are vital early in your health care course to help you make a good recovery. PT can be helpful later if you have pain or trouble getting around.

Prosthesis (Artificial Limb)

You may be given a prosthesis (a fake arm or leg). You will be taught how your prosthesis should fit and how to care for it. If your prosthesis does not fit well it can lead to blisters, bruising, or skin breakdown, or sores. A prosthesis can be costly and may need to be replaced after some time. There are groups that can help you pay for these prostheses. A social worker can help you find these resources.

Places to get more information

Amputee Coalition - https://www.amputee-coalition.org/ - US-based organization

Limbs 4 Life - https://www.limbs4life.org.au/ - Australia-based organization

Limbless Association - https://limbless-association.org/ - UK-based organization

The Amputee Discussion & Support Forum - https://amputees.proboards.com/ - discussion boards covering many topics

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