woman stretching her prosthetic legs on a run

What Is the Learning Curve for Using a Prosthetic Device?

How to Get Comfortable Using a Prosthetic Leg

Going through an amputation is a life-changing event that not only affects a person physically, but mentally and emotionally as well.

As one of the leading clinics in Kansas City that specializes in advanced prosthetics and orthotics, we take the time to address the questions and concerns of our patients. What we’ve found is that the more they know about what to expect, the easier it is for them to acclimate to a prosthetic device – both mentally and physically. One of the big pieces of information that patients want to know is how long it takes to feel comfortable using a prosthetic leg. Essentially, what is the learning curve?

Let’s dig into the details of what affects the learning process when using a prosthetic leg along with some helpful tips to follow.

Factors That Affect Learning to Use a Prosthetic Leg

When discussing the learning curve for using a prosthetic device such as a below-the-knee prosthetic leg, saying “the average person can do it in x amount of time” can be misleading. First, the average person never expects to have an amputated limb. Second, the average person has no idea how they’ll react to the situation until they’re already in it.

Keeping that in mind, most clinics and advanced prosthetics and orthotics experts set the baseline learning curve in months. Very rarely does someone master using a prosthetic leg within weeks. On a similar note, it’s also rare for a person to go for more than a year and still be learning to walk.

The broad answer regarding the learning curve is that it will take months. How many months is entirely dependent on the person and some external factors that can shorten or lengthen the timeline. The following breaks down the four main factors:

Type of amputation: Patients who have had a below-the-knee amputation have an advantage over their above-the-knee counterparts – they still have their knee joint. Retaining the knee means that you’ll be afforded more stability when learning to walk again. Having that extra bit of stability means that below-the-knee prosthetic legs are easier to learn to walk in.

Personal work ethic, attitude, and ability: Out of all the factors that affect the learning curve, the person ultimately determines their own progress. People who were fit or athletic prior to their amputation tend to fare better from a strength, balance, and coordination perspective. Additionally, attitude and drive play a huge factor. Those who devote themselves to the learning process and put in the work tend to learn on a tighter timeline. Using advanced prosthetics and orthotics takes practice. The more practice a patient gets, the quicker they tend to learn.

Quality and condition of the prosthetic leg: A prosthetic leg is an extension of a person. If the leg doesn’t fit comfortably onto the residual limb, it’s going to be incredibly difficult (and uncomfortable) learning to walk again. Not properly maintaining the prosthetic can lead to numerous issues that will slow progress. Developing blisters, sores, or a rash will likely bring the process to a screeching halt, which is why prosthetic leg care and maintenance are of the utmost importance.

Prosthetics physical therapy: During prosthetics physical therapy, patients learn to get comfortable using their prosthetic leg through a series of exercises and guided activities. One of the main exercises is the use of parallel bars to mitigate the risk of falling as the patient learns to bear and shift weight on their prosthetic leg. Naturally, some are quicker to learn than others.

Looking for Prosthetics Near You in Kansas City? Contact Cotton Orthotic and Prosthetic Associates Today!

As clinical leaders in advanced prosthetics and orthotics, Cotton Orthotic and Prosthetic Associates is proud to offer industry-leading prosthetic solutions. We work with people of all ages and ability levels, which means we have experience custom molding, fitting, and adjusting prosthetics for a broad base of patients. Our team works closely with physical therapists and occupational therapists to ensure everyone is on the same page during rehabilitation.

The best way to get started on getting a prosthetic is by scheduling a consultation. During this initial appointment, we’ll gather some background information, perform an examination (if applicable), and answer all your questions about advanced prosthetics and orthotics.

You can reach Cotton Orthotic and Prosthetic Associates by calling (913) 338-2672 or by emailing us directly using the contact form on our website. As one of the leading providers of prosthetics in Kansas City, we look forward to helping you find the perfect solution that will help you reclaim your mobility.

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