Losing a limb is a horrible feeling. It changes your life in an instant, forcing you to adapt to living without the ability to use both arms or legs.
With arms in particular, the loss may seem particularly pronounced. Without having two hands, it can be hard to pick up your children, carry groceries or do other normal daily tasks like getting dressed or washing your hair.
Adapting to losing an arm does take time. Not everyone will opt to have a prosthesis, though one may be offered, and even those who do may not have a functional prosthesis. There are complications to be concerned about, like ghost sensations, phantom pain, and nerve pain, and the victim’s entire world may seem to have been flipped upside down.
After a serious collision where a limb is lost, it’s important to get medical help. With around 2 million amputees living in the United States today, living without an arm is not uncommon. This traumatic injury is life-changing, but there are ways to go through recovery that may help in the long term.
What is it like to go through losing a limb?
Medically speaking, most people who lose a limb will have an amputation surgery. Even if the arm was missing or crushed in an accident, surgery will be needed to salvage as much healthy tissue as possible. Muscles are then cut and shaped, so a prosthesis may be attached if the person would like one in the future.
After surgery, physical therapy usually begins post-discharge. So, within a week or two, most people begin physical therapy to learn to do tasks without their limb. They may also use a prosthesis in physical therapy, so they can learn to use it.
Sometimes those who have lost a limb will need to take medications to manage phantom pains and other issues. Some may need to use antidepressants or other medications to support their mental health as they adapt to living without the limb. It’s normal for those with amputations to question their self-worth and to have self-esteem issues, but the right medical and therapeutic supports help.