Tag Archives: gait

lower limb amputation

Lower Limb Amputations

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The goal for every patient with a lower limb amputation is to walk normally again.
A patient with a lower limb amputation faces many challenges when it comes to walking safely in a variety of walking surfaces and without exerting excessive energy. Generally, the higher the amputation level, the more we can expect to see gait deviations or difficulty walking. This is because with each segment of the anatomy is lost to amputation, more muscle, sensory receptors and leverage are also lost. A Physical Therapy treatment program can be designed to assist a patient return to a “normal” walking pattern in terms of posture, step length, stability, balance, rate of speed, and limb positioning.

GAIT TRAINING
Almost all patients with a lower limb amputation will benefit from physical therapy and gait training at some point in their recovery to help them return to a more normal walking pattern. Pre-amputation exercises will assist the patient in arm and leg strengthening to help them prepare for using a walker during gait training with their prosthesis. After amputation surgery a prosthetist will work with the patient to fabricate and align a prosthesis to assure that it will optimize the patients walking pattern.

WHAT TO EXPECT DURING PHYSICAL THERAPY

  • The physical therapist will typically work with the patient 3 days per week

  • The physical therapist and prosthetest will remain in close communication with gait training is occurring since any changes in the prosthesis will affect the gait pattern

  • Initially physical therapy is focused on standing and walking with enough stability to ensure safety (this initial gait training is performed in parallel bars with the assistance of the physical therapist holding the patient with a gait belt for additional safety)

  • Initial gait training is supplemented with strength and flexibility exercises for the legs and trunk muscles since strong trunk and leg muscles make it easier to progress the patient’s gait training

  • The physical therapist will also work with the patient to improve balance and coordination to help the patient develop a more normal step length and walking speed

Physical therapists use many different techniques during gait training sessions

leg amputee

LEARNING HOW TO WALK AGAIN
Specialized Treatment Techniques

  • SPLINTER SKILLS: Technique where the walking pattern is broken down into a sequence of events that are practiced individually before putting them all together to build the walking pattern
  • WHOLE WALKING: Technique in which the entire gait pattern is performed all at one time without thinking about the individual components of walking therefore relying on the body’s natural tendency to find the most stable and energy efficient way to walk

BUILDING CONFIDENCE
Once the patient feels confident and the physical therapist believes that it is safe, a walker can be used instead of the parallel bars. When using a walker, the focus will change to helping the patient walk on uneven surfaces such as outdoors and walking around obstacles or stepping up and down stairs.

Even patients who have walked with a prosthesis for years can benefit from gait training for a “tune up” of their walking skills or to learn a new skill such as side stepping, tandem walking or even running.

postoperative physical therapy

Postoperative Physical Therapy

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Postoperative physical therapy after a Total Hip Replacement is essential to your recovery. Your physical therapist will follow your physician’s protocol and will focus on range of motion exercises, progressive strengthening exercises, gait training, balance training, and activity specific training to meet your specific needs. Modalities such as ice and e-stim may be used to help reduce discomfort and swelling. It is very important to complete your home exercise program as directed by your physical therapist and physician.

RANGE OF MOTION EXERCISES
Swelling and pain can make you move your knee less. Your physical therapist can teach you safe and effective exercises to restore the range of motion to your knee so that you can perform your daily activities.

STRENGTHENING EXERCISES
Weakness of the muscles of the thigh and lower leg is typical after surgery. Your physical therapist can determine the best strengthening exercises for you with the goal of no longer needing a cane or walker to walk.

post op

BALANCE TRAINING
Specialized training exercises can help your muscles “learn” to adapt to changes in your world such as uneven or rocky ground. When you are able to put your full weight on your knee without pain, your physical therapist may add agility exercises so that you can safely and quickly change directions or make quick stops or starts. They may use a balance board that will challenge your balance and knee control. These exercises will be safe and fun.

GAIT TRAINING
Your physical therapist will work with you in retraining your gait following your surgery using appropriate assistive devices such as a walker or cane. They will make sure that you will be able to safely and confidently go up and down stairs, negotiate curbs, and inclines, etc.

ACTIVITY SPECIFIC TRAINING
Depending on the requirements or your job or the type of recreational activities you enjoy, your physical therapist will tailor your program so that you can meet your specific demands.

This article about postoperative physical therapy was written by STAR Physical Therapy, an outpatient physical therapy group with over sixty locations in Tennessee. Established in 1997 with one clinic and one mission – to serve. Today, they have grown to offer that direct service in more than 60 clinics, and while they’ve grown, one thing that has not changed is their commitment to you, their communities, and their employees. For more information click here.