Home Exercises for Lower Extremity Amputees
Exercise may be the last thing on your mind after a lower extremity amputation. However, once your surgical wounds have healed and you have been cleared by your doctor, working out is actually an extremely important component of regaining your independence. Strengthening the muscles in your legs helps with bed mobility and transitions in and out of a chair. In addition, building up your lower body can help make walking with a prosthesis less taxing. Try these exercises following an amputation of your lower leg.
1. Supine Quad Set
Following a below-the-knee amputation, this is a good technique to target the quadriceps muscle in the front of your thigh. This muscle is extremely influential in your ability to walk with a prosthesis.
HOW TO DO IT: Sit on the floor or in bed with your leg extended in front of you. Tighten your thigh muscle and hold the squeeze for 10 seconds. Begin by squeezing with 25 percent of your effort and increase the intensity as this becomes easier.
2. Bird Dog
Bird Dogs strengthen the gluteus maximus muscle in your buttocks. This important area is especially active while standing and walking.
HOW TO DO IT: Get onto the ground on all fours and squeeze your stomach muscles. Then, lift your residual limb in the air behind you as you raise the opposite arm over your head. Maintain this pose for 5 to 10 seconds before returning the initial position. Try not to allow your pelvis to tilt as you lift your arm and leg.
3. Hip Abduction
The gluteus medius, a muscle on the side of your hip that stabilizes the pelvis when you walk, is targeted in this simple exercise.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your unaffected side with your legs stacked on top of each other. Without allowing your body to roll backwards, lift your residual limb straight up in the air. Hold it here for a second or two before lowering it back to the ground. To make the exercise more challenging, fasten a cuff weight around your affected leg.
4. Hip Thrust
Hip Thrusts are another effective exercise for targeting the glute muscles in the back of your hips.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your back on a sofa and place your good leg and your residual limb on the arm of the couch. Squeeze your stomach and then lift your buttocks off the ground. Keep your rear end in this position for 5 to 10 seconds before lowering it back down.
5. Resisted Abduction
This exercise challenges the lateral hip muscles from the sitting position using a resistance band.
HOW TO DO IT: Sit in a chair with a resistance band secured around both of your legs. Spread both legs apart as you increase the tension on the band. Hold your legs in the wide position for 1 to 2 seconds before slowly bringing them back together again. As you do the exercise, you should feel a muscular burn on the side of your hips.
6. Prone Extension
Prone extensions help to improve your ability to ascend stairs and rise from a chair by targeting the butt muscles.
HOW TO DO IT: Begin by lying on your stomach. Without allowing your low back to arch, lift your amputated limb in the air as you squeeze your butt cheek. Hold the leg here for 5 to 10 seconds before lowering it to the ground. The intensity of the exercise can be increased by adding a cuff weight.
Guidelines and Precautions
In order to build strength in your legs, try two to four sets of 10 to 15 repetitions of each of the exercises listed above. This may be performed two to three times per week. The exercises can be done with just your residual limb or with your prosthesis on to add to the challenge. In some cases, it may be necessary to work with a physical therapist to modify the techniques if they cause you increased pain or are too challenging initially.
- International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy: Electromyographic Analysis of Gluteus Medius and Gluteus Maximus During Rehabilitation Exercises
- American College of Sports Medicine: Quantity and Quality of Exercise for Developing and Maintaining Cardiorespiratory, Musculoskeletal, and Neuromotor Fitness in Apparently Healthy Adults: Guidance for Prescribing Exercise
Tim Petrie is a Physical Therapist and an Orthopedic Certified Specialist working in Milwaukee, Wisc. When he isn't working, he loves distance running, Packers football, and traveling with his wife and his energetic kids.