Residual Limb

Photo of a man with an amputation talking to a doctor.
Your physical therapist can help you with desentization exercises after amputation.. Blend Images/ Getty Images.


If you have suffered an amputation of the arm or leg, then you know how extensive the physical therapy and rehabilitation process is for this type of injury. You may need to work closely with a physical therapist as part of a rehabilitation team to help you restore normal mobility and function.

Proper Terminology after an Amputation

Historically, the limb that had been amputated in people had been called a "stump." Unfortunately, this term is not the most attractive term to use.

Who wants to refer to a part of their body as a stump? Many people who have had an amputation feel that this term is insensitive.

The term residual limb refers to the part of the body that remains after an amputation has been performed. For example, if you have had a lower extremity amputation above the knee, the part of your thigh that remains after the amputation is called the residual limb.

The rehabilitation process after an amputation involves proper care of your residual limb. First and foremost, you must ensure that the surgical incision heals properly. You must be on the lookout for signs of infection and your doctor must be alerted if you suspect infection in your residual limb.

Shaping of your residual limb is important after an amputation as well. Ensuring the proper shape of your residual limb will make fitting a prosthesis a lot easier. Your physical therapist can teach you wrapping techniques to help your limb maintain the proper shape after a lower extremity amputation.

Occasionally after an amputation, your limb may be highly sensitive. This is caused by altered nerve signals at the end of your residual limb. Desensitization techniques can help you ensure that your limb is not too sensitive after an amputation. This will make using your prosthesis easier.

Phantom limb pain is a complex and confusing phenomenon that may occur after you have had an amputation.

Be sure to work with your doctor, physical therapist, and rehabilitation team to help you manage phantom limb pain if you are experiencing it.

Most importantly, exercise for your residual limb (and your entire body) is essential after an amputation. You will need good strength in the muscles that remain intact after an amputation for proper walking and functional mobility.

If you have had an amputation, you should check in with your doctor to see if physical therapy would help you move better and feel better. Your PT can teach you anatomical terms - like residual limb - that you should use after an amputation.

Also Known As: stump, residuum


After my lower extremity amputation, my physical therapist helped me to properly wrap my residual limb so my prosthesis would fit properly.

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