As amputees, we all share common issues with our bodies being off balance. Our hips and back hurt, and we don’t seem to be able to strengthen our residual limbs like we think we should.
If your sockets aren’t adjusted correctly to be at the same level as both hips, then you will experience a lot of soreness. If that is the case, you should have them checked by your prosthetist and have any necessary adjustments made.
Strengthening your lower back, hips, and gluteal and core muscles will make a huge difference in how well your body feels on a daily basis.
For new amputees or for amputees who choose to not wear a leg(s), you can still do core exercises, abduction/adduction exercises, back extensions and pelvic tilts to strengthen the ligaments and tendons that help to support your skeletal structure.
We seem to have this notion that unless we’re pumping tons of weight, nothing positive will happen. You will be surprised how much better and stronger you will feel with these simple exercise moves.
Hip Abduction/Adduction and Gluteal Exercises. | Hip abduction/adduction and gluteal exercises can be done very easily while lying on your side on either the floor or a bed. The use of gravity is a hidden bonus with exercise – it creates more resistance. Remember that your form is extremely important to get good results. Being able to do these exercises without assistance from another person, equipment, or even having to go to a gym should be a big motivator.
Plank – BK Without Prosthesis
Core Exercises | Having a strong core will help your torso with better balance. The plank is one of the best exercises to help strengthen your abdominal muscles, as well as your erector spinae (the back muscles that surround your spine). Even if you’re an above-knee (AK) or knee disarticulation (KA) amputee without your prosthesis, you can be on your quadriceps (thigh) with your arms placed shoulder width apart. If you’re a below-knee (BK) amputee without your prosthesis, you can be on your knees. If you’re wearing your prosthesis, you can start on your knees and work up to your toes.
Try to hold the plank for as long as you can, making sure your back is not swaying downwards – that will cause stress in your back, which could lead to injury. If you’re a beginner with the plank and can hold it forever, that’s usually an indication that your form is not quite right. A true beginner can only hold the correct form for 10-15 seconds. As your abdominal muscles strengthen, you’ll notice that you can hold it for much longer. Once you reach that stage, add a second repetition and then a third.When you can do three repetitions for one minute each, it’s time to progress to the next level.
Back Extensions | Back extensions can be done with or without your prosthesis. Begin by lying on your stomach on a flat surface, such as the floor or your bed. With both legs straight and shoulder width apart, and your arms under your chin, press your legs (residual limb[s]) down firmly while lifting your upper body – hold for a count of three, then lower back down.
Repeat this 10 times; you can do three sets of 10 with a 30-second pause between sets.
Pelvic Tilts | Pelvic tilts are done on your back on a flat surface, with knees bent (for bilateral AK/KA amputees, put a pillow under your residual limbs – your back will have a natural arch). Tilt your hips upward and toward you, trying to flatten your back on the flat surface. Imagine a bucket of water on your lap – when you lift your glutes, the water would spill toward you.
All of these exercises are meant to help your body stay as pain-free as possible. However, the only way to accomplish this is to ensure that you are doing the exercises correctly. It is also critical to make sure that your prostheses fit comfortably and correctly.
By following these steps, it will make a difference. Keeping moving forward!
Photos provided by Cindy Asch-Martin