The Best Healthy Habits to Help Mitigate Pain After an Upper Limb Amputation

3 min read
Jul 6, 2020

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As part of our series on pain management after an upper limb amputation, we wanted to take a look at habits that you can incorporate into your life to help mitigate any pain and stress you may be experiencing.

Lifestyle Management

The Three P’s Planning, Prioritizing and Pacing are key to taking control of the many tasks that you need to do while minimizing symptoms. Take the time to plan what needs to happen during the day or week. Reflect on which activities are most important to accomplish and then schedule the day or week around those. Pacing involves both scheduling rest breaks into your day and limiting the number of high energy activities that you need to do on any one day. What if things don’t go as planned?

It might be helpful to learn about the Spoon Theory. In the days, weeks and months following an amputation, you need to remember that you are in recovery, and as such, you need to give your body (and mind) a break. The Spoon Theory is something that people with a chronic illness find helpful — essentially, you can think about energy you have each day as spoons. Before your amputation, you might have had, say, 10 spoons to work with each day — getting up and out of the house takes a spoon, that long meeting took two spoons, going out to dinner took a spoon, and so on. But after an amputation, while you are recovering, you might be down to seven spoons a day. So maybe you have to be willing to demand less of yourself, maybe miss that friend’s birthday party, and figure out how to wisely spend your “spoons” so that you can continue recovering.

By planning and prioritizing, you have a strategy in place for how to best tackle what you need to do. That gives you a way to better manage unexpected changes.

Positive Outlook

This can be tough in light of the challenges and changes that come with an amputation. However, feeling stressed and worried about symptoms can make the symptoms worse. Research shows that when we think and feel negatively about pain, we produce chemicals associated with inflammation, which can make the pain worse. Shifting our thinking to become more positive can lead to physical changes that improve symptoms. We have a blog articled titled: "Relaxation and Meditation: Helping Mitigate Pain After an Amputation" that you may find helpful. Above all, be patient and kind with yourself.

Body Mechanics & Ergonomics

Making sure that we position and move our bodies in ways that limit unnecessary strain on our muscles and joints is very important to overall well-being. A clinical therapy specialist can help you learn how to preposition and use your prosthesis to limit awkward and uncomfortable movements, prevent overuse issues and problem-solve work or home activities that cause discomfort due to positioning or movement difficulties.

Arm Dynamics Clinical Therapy Specialist working with a patient at the Minneapolis Center on Body Mechanics

We hope this has given you a place to start with daily behavior changes that can help with pain management. If you are looking for help with your pain management after an upper limb amputation, or if you experience pain when you wear your prosthetic device, please contact us, as we may be able to help with both of those issues. If you have advice regarding these topics, or your own success story with pain management, please use the comment section below to help your peers find their own path to mitigating pain.

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