Heavy-Duty Activities When You Have an Upper Limb Difference

by Amber Henson, on Apr 19, 2022

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Just because someone has a congenital upper limb difference or has had an amputation (including bilateral amputation), that doesn’t mean that the shop, the farm, sports or the outdoors at large are off limits. Our prosthetists and technicians have created many devices for people that allow them to take part in some pretty substantial activities.

There are three keys when it comes to doing heavy-duty activities with an upper limb difference: using the correct terminal device, having a comfortable socket, and getting some individualized training on how to use your prosthesis.

Terminal Devices

For really dirty, really wet activities, a body-powered device may be the way to go. Body-powered hooks can stand up to dirt, water, paint, primer, mud, welding and more.

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There are two myoelectric devices that stand up to tough activities: the electronic terminal device, or ETD, can get wet and it also allows for precision pinching it's pictured below on Michael, who is a HVAC technician. The TASKA is the only multi-articulating myoelectric hand that can get wet.

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There are activity-specific terminal devices that are made specifically for fishing, shooting, driving an ATV, weightlifting and more. We tell you more about all of the above in our Terminal Device Overview article.

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Socket Fit

So, there are people who need their prosthesis for work, and others who do heavy-duty activities outside of their job. Either way, it involves wearing their device for long periods of time. One simple way to increase wear time is by upgrading to a silicone socket. Our bilateral patient Gerry (pictured at the top) has been wearing silicone sockets for a few years now. He operates power saws, trimmers and weed eaters; does welding, woodworking and electrical wiring; and drives a tractor, a front-end loader and a truck. “Between my body-powered and my myoelectric arms, I’ve easily worn them 18 hours a day,” he said.

While silicone sockets aren’t for everyone, they have made a huge difference in comfort for many of our patients.

Training

Our therapists like challenges. They love getting to know their patients, learning about their jobs and what they do for fun. Our centers are equipped with shovels, hammers, brooms, fishing poles, and other tools and leisure items that allow for practice in clinic. Of course, our therapists don’t just hand them a tool and sit back and watch they guide their patient in its use, paying attention to both body mechanics (to reduce overuse symptoms) and how the prosthesis is working for them. If necessary, the therapist can make recommendations to the prosthetist and technicians about modifying the device to increase comfortable, functional use.

Additionally, sometimes our clinicians can assist a patient at their job site, gym or other location to make sure their prosthesis is working for them. Our patient Lizzy Smith, who is a US Paralympic silver medalist (!), wanted to use an activity-specific device for weightlifting. Our clinical team in Dallas took Lizzy to the gym and made sure the prosthesis was exactly what she needed to support her work out. It was a success!

Lizzi Smith at the gym

What sort of dirty, industrial, agricultural, body-building, fun activity do you wish you could get into or get BACK into? Let us know in the comments below. If you would like to learn more about how Arm Dynamics can get you into a proper terminal device, comfortable socket or help you learn how to use your prosthesis, please contact us. Helping patients get back to work or pursue their passion is OUR passion. Thanks for reading!

For more Arm Dynamics articles, see related resources here:

Topics:Working When You Have a Limb DifferenceBody-Powered ProsthesesActivity-Specific DevicesHeavy Duty ProsthesesHobbiesTerminal Devices

About the Upper Limb Library

Arm Dynamics is the most experienced upper limb prosthetic care provider in the world. Our Upper Limb Library is our community space for articles for and by those with an upper limb difference. Read on to learn all about issues that affect those who have had an amputation, and be sure to leave a comment letting us know what topic you’d like to know more about!

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