In the 25 years that our Arm Dynamics team members have been working with people with upper limb amputations, we have seen our patients at all levels of sorrow and joy. The first time we meet with a potential patient, we are ready for anything sadness, despair, regret all feelings are valid and validated in our centers. In the weeks and months following an amputation, it can be incredibly difficult to look beyond what is happening right now: the loss of a body part, the loss of normal function, and possibly, a lot of pain.

But often, by the end of our first meeting with that potential patient, there is a small change in them. There is a little hope. A tiny glimmer of what a “new normal” might look like. A prosthetic device can make a big difference in an amputee’s life. A prosthesis is a tool that can help the patient get up and running again. But that’s not the only factor in being able to find joy after an upper limb amputation.


“It is really hard in the beginning, when you get hurt. I mean, you go from having something to do every day, but then your life kind of just stops,” our patient Xavier told us in his patient profile video. A lot of times you lose hope, a lot of times you’re mentally broken down, and you don’t know where your life is going or what you’re going to do next.” Xavier is doing much better now, partly because his prostheses allowed him to go back to work. “My psychologist called it having a purpose. I was nervous at first, but when I went back to work, it really helped me mentally.”

For some people, it’s getting back to work, either at the company they were with or a new business. For others, it may be focusing on their kids or getting back in the gym, doing a hobby they love or helping people.

Finding meaning in our lives can be beneficial for everyone, but it can be especially beneficial for people who have gone through limb loss.

A New Challenge

It may seem counter-intuitive but starting a new hobby after an amputation can be a big confidence builder. Why? Because it’s something that would take practice even if the person had two typical hands. By starting a new hobby, a person is finding something that brings them joy while also learning how to use their device(s) as they go. Even if they struggle, is it because their prosthetic device is still new to them or because the hobby is new to them? It doesn’t matter because the struggle is part of the joy. There’s less frustration doing something that’s new than a task they did before their limb loss. For instance, instead of, “I know I used to be able to do the dishes faster than this,” it’s, “Since I don’t know how long it would have taken to build this Lego set before my amputation, I’m just going to enjoy it.”

Our patient Gerry, who is a bilateral amputee, is an active guy. He wouldn’t let his amputations slow him down. After he got his prosthetic devices, he was eager to get back home and see what he could do with them. The answer? Build, saw, weld, you name it. You can watch Gerry discuss his excitement in this video:

What did Gerry build with all these skills? His “Lineman’s Cave,” which you can see below, filled with memorabilia from his time as a lineman.



Everyone’s seen those signs that say, “Choose Joy”. But what does that really mean? How can someone just choose joy in any given moment? Well, every moment may not be an opportunity, but putting some intention into happiness every day or every week can make a difference.

Sometimes after an amputation, the things that used to bring someone joy may not have the same attraction. Losing interest in the things someone once enjoyed can be a sign of depression, which is understandable after an amputation. It can be a lot of work for a person to get up and out of the house to see friends, go to a movie or out to eat.

While keeping in mind that it’s important to recover and not over-do it, setting small goals to bring back some joy can be helpful. In James Clear’s book, Atomic Habit, he discusses “The Habit Loop”: Cue, Craving, Response, Reward. Essentially, this comes down to rewarding oneself for things that they, at least part of them, want to do. So maybe that’s picking up an iced coffee when a friend asks to spend time together. Maybe it’s watching a favorite TV episode after talking on the phone with family.

After an amputation, everything can feel overwhelming. Start small. Take time but attempt to create space where joy can take hold.

No one has the same experience following an amputation. No one has the same exact goals, family and friend support, and pain level. All these factors can complicate not only their recovery, but also their pleasure in everyday life. The right tools, the right knowledge and the right support can nearly always allow someone to move forward.

Meeting with our Arm Dynamics clinical team can help in several ways. One is being fit with a prosthesis that is comfortable and getting help to learn how to use it. Two is getting connected with our Peer Support network. Three is our Wellness Inventory, which is a screening tool we offer all patients to help them identify where additional mental health support may be needed. Our holistic approach to prosthetic care means our patients are cared for like family.

Please contact us if you or someone you know would like to schedule a complimentary consultation, either in-person or via video chat. If you have a comment on this article, please leave it below.


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