An upper limb prosthesis can make it easier for you to do a lot of things, from getting dinner ready to managing the tasks that are part of your job. The type of prosthesis you’re wearing though, whether myoelectric, body-powered, passive or activity-specific, will offer the support you need in some situations, and be less functional in others.

Your prosthesis is a sophisticated tool that helps you get things done. But if the only tool you have is a wrench, what do you do when the task at hand calls for a screwdriver or a hammer?

Myoelectric vs Body-Powered

Let’s say that a myoelectric prosthesis is just right for what you need to do on the job. Then the weekend comes around, and you’d like to refinish that old table or go hunting. That would be a good time to be able to switch over to a body-powered prosthesis with a hook that can stand up to rugged conditions like dust, dirt and moisture.

Jason and Alex

You might be thinking, “For me, it’s just the opposite: I use a body-powered hook all day at work and I’d like to be able to change over to an electric prosthesis when I’m off.”

It’s true that using a myoelectric at least part of the time is easier on your body. A body-powered prosthesis can require a lot of back and shoulder flexing. An electric prosthesis is activated by an electrode inside the socket and that means minimal physical effort on your part.

What About Activity-Specific Prostheses?

Maybe you’re someone who likes CrossFit, yoga or competitive sports. Or you might enjoy riding a bike or playing catch with your kids. There are activity-specific prosthetic devices that are designed for all of these uses and many others. Wearing the appropriate prosthesis for these activities makes it safer and easier to have fun, and activity-specific devices can stand up to getting banged around a bit. It’s pretty interesting to check out some of the options for sports and hobby-related attachments.

Lauren Scruggs Kennedy (pictured below) says that using an activity-specific prosthesis was what helped her move forward after surviving a near-fatal accident. She was fit with three arms: a myoelectric, a passive silicone restoration and a prosthesis with several attachments for working out.

Lauren Scruggs-Kennedy

“It was the workout prosthesis that shifted my perspective,” she said. “For the first couple of years after my accident, I went to the gym every morning to work out with a trainer. I think it was being active again that increased my endorphins. I don’t know what I’d do without the workout prosthesis because it just adds a lot of energy and confidence to my life.”

Kids and Activity-Specific Arms Go Together!

If your child has a congenital limb difference or upper limb loss, adding an activity-specific prosthesis can open up a world of opportunity for them to get more involved in the work of childhood – playing!

Amber-Violin-Bat v2

Amber (pictured above) was born with an upper limb difference and was fit with a passive prosthesis when she was six months old. By the time she started school, she was wearing a myoelectric prosthesis most of the day, and an activity-specific device with different attachments so she could play tee ball, ride her bike and play the violin.

One More Reason to Have a Back-Up

Prosthetic arms and hands are mechanical devices, and over time, they’ll require some repairs, new components or socket refitting. If you need to wear a prosthesis in order to do your job, it’s important to have a back-up prosthesis so you can continue working.

Michael Dunn (pictured below) is an HVAC contractor in Texas who relies on both a myoelectric and a body-powered prosthesis to repair and install residential heat and air systems.

Michael Dunn working on AC unit in attic

“We have jobs booked up months in advance,” he said. “So, if my prosthesis suddenly has a problem and I don’t have a back-up to use, I lose the job and the money. People aren’t going to wait around for their air conditioning to get fixed.”

If you believe you need a second prosthesis to do your job or balance out your life, talk with your prosthetist about strategies for getting one in the future. For example, when you’re eligible for a new prosthesis, sometimes your older device can be tuned up and become a second, back-up prosthesis.

The Arm Dynamics team of upper limb specialists have fit many people with a second or third prosthetic device. We can help you understand all of the prosthetic options and unique components that are available. The more you know, the more you’ll be able to advocate for your right to have the tools you need to live a productive and balanced life as a prosthesis user.

If you have more than one prosthesis, please leave a comment describing your devices and how they help you get things done! If you’re hoping for a second prosthesis, tell us what you’d like to get and why!

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