Volume 23, Issue 4 July/August 2013 | Download PDF
by Cindy Asch-Martin
Learning how to walk with a smooth gait can be challenging at first. Your hips will be tight, so learning and practicing how to focus on keeping your hips limber and strong is where we will begin.
As amputees, we already know that our body is no longer in balance; we tend to favor our sound leg over our prosthetic leg. We tend to walk gingerly, as it can hurt or feel very uncomfortable; this is especially true for new amputees who are just learning how to walk with a prosthesis. At first, try using either crutches or a walker to help you maintain your balance; it will also minimize the discomfort of your residual limb.
As we age, we tend to sit for extended periods of time, in a car, at work, watching TV or at the computer. In the sitting position, your hip flexors shorten and will begin to get tighter as time passes. When you stand up, you can feel a tight or painful sensation either in your back or in the front portion of your upper leg.You need to learn how to correctly execute the movements of your hips so you can get the best possible results. The following exercises can be done at home on a daily basis; no equipment is needed.
The starting position for this exercise is lying on your stomach on a flat surface. If you find lying on your stomach too difficult or uncomfortable, you may choose to lie on your side. Just make sure you are only moving your leg/residual limb back without moving the top half of your body forward. Bearing in mind that your leg must stay straight, hold your leg back for a count of two, then bring it back over your lower leg.
This standing position can be done as an alternative for those who may find it too difficult or uncomfortable to lie down. Holding on to the back of a chair will help you keep your body in good form. This exercise works your hip flexors as well as your buttock muscles.
Keep in mind that you are only pushing your leg backward and leaving your upper body straight up. Do your best to avoid leaning your upper body forward or you will not feel your hip flexors. Think of your leg as a pendulum – push your leg backward without bending your knee, hold for a count of two, then slowly bring it back down to meet your standing leg. Try not to touch the ground with it, as you need to keep the tension on your working leg.
Equipment is optional; once you have mastered this movement, you can add an elastic band for increased resistance.
In this exercise you will be lying on your side on a flat surface. Lift your leg straight up; this movement is called hip abduction. Hold for a count of two, then lower it back down slowly. Do not rest your upper leg/limb on your lower leg/limb; you need to keep the tension on the muscle during the exercise. It can be helpful to put a finger on your hip so you know where the target zone is. Do three sets with 10 repetitions per leg.
You need to learn how to correctly execute the movements of your hips..
Photos provided by Jason T Kahle, CPO and M. Jason Highsmith, DPT, CP, FAA
When we exercise, we need to be mindful and control our movements. Do not use momentum to carry you from one movement to the next. Stop with a pause between each movement or your muscles will not benefit from the exercises.