Exploring Water Sports with Prosthetics

Amputees should have the opportunity to engage in thrilling sports without limitations. Water sports can be a transformative experience, not only physically but also mentally and emotionally. It offers a unique opportunity to challenge oneself, push boundaries, and connect with the power of nature. Here you’ll read about the exciting world of water sports for amputees, including surfing, kayaking, and scuba diving. 

After an hour of practicing emergency exits in the pool, Anna Corbitt had to be dragged out of the water. She was having so much fun that she wanted to keep going.

A congenital quadruple amputee from St. Louis, Missouri, Corbitt is top heavy, doesn’t float well, and has a slight fear of water. She’d be the first to laugh at how that sounds. “It’s great to be around people who understand my situation,” she says. “I can be myself and make self-deprecating jokes without any awkwardness, because everyone gets it.”

That’s not always the case for Corbitt, who finds it easy to fall and hard to feel comfortable. But once she got into the pool, Corbitt discovered that she could still be in control. “Being in the water feels incredibly freeing,” she says.

Corbitt’s experience illustrates how beneficial water sports can be for people with limb loss, both mentally and physically. In contrast to land sports, water sports are generally low impact, so you don’t feel as much wear and tear on your residual limb(s) or anywhere else. Our bodies are naturally buoyant, so it’s easier to move in or on the water than on land, enhancing mobility. Water also provides natural resistance that helps strengthen your muscles and improve your balance and coordination. And many water sports don’t require a prosthesis, liberating you from the weight and discomfort of your artificial limb.

Beyond the physical activity itself, adaptive water sports are often therapeutic and calming or energizing and empowering. They’ve helped thousands of people get active after limb loss to regain their confidence and independence.

“If there’s magic on this planet, it’s in the water,” says Larry Gioia, an adaptive paddling instructor who routinely introduces amputees to canoeing and kayaking through his boating program, Dynamic Paddlers. “I’ve seen the transformative effect it’s had on individuals, couples, and families.”

“If someone invites you [to try water sports], you have to say yes,” adds Chris McClanathan, a medically retired Army veteran and bilateral leg amputee from Southern California. “Don’t worry so much about how it’s going to happen. You have to be flexible and creative, but first you just have to show up.”

Whether this is your first time or your hundredth time in or on the water, many resources are available to help you create a plan and follow through. Here’s an introduction to a handful of adaptive water sports that are growing in popularity, along with some tips to help you get started.


Angie Heuser’s first amputee surfing experience came during her family’s annual vacation in Hawaii. A left above-knee amputee from Phoenix, Heuser hadn’t been able to enjoy the beach in years because of the limitations from her chronically injured left leg. But after her amputation in 2019, Heuser felt a new sense of freedom.

“Surfing started as a desire to do what people wouldn’t think I could do and wanting to prove I could do anything, even one leg down,” says Heuser. She took lessons at a surf school, but the instructors weren’t specialized in working with amputees, so she had to figure out a lot on her own. She was surprised by how sore her ribs were the day after, but the pain was well worth the high she felt for months after catching her first wave.

“It’s an amazing feeling once you get out on the water,” she says. “The power of that wave comes from beneath the water’s surface. To start to paddle with that power just below you and then to stand and be driven forward by it, it’s a feeling like no other.”

Adaptive surfing has drawn a huge following among not only amputees but also people with other disabilities. Its popularity is driven in part by high-profile competitions all over the globe. The sport’s international governing body is pushing to get adaptive surfing included as a medal sport in the 2028 Paralympics.

Kayaking and Canoeing

Alan Parrish, a Marine Corps veteran and below-knee amputee from Cleveland, first tried adaptive kayaking at a local workshop, where he learned how to paddle, roll, recover, and rescue himself. He enjoyed it so much that he bought two of his own kayaks, which he calls Little Orange and Big Red. Parrish typically takes Little Orange out on the river. When he’s exploring a lake, where larger waves are more common, he feels more comfortable in Big Red.

“When I first lost my leg, I didn’t have a good outlook on life,” Parrish says. “But when I’m out on the water, it gives me a mental boost. I make a plan for the day—where I’m going, what type of water I’ll be on, what steps I need to take to ensure I have a great day. I’m focused and motivated.”

When Parrish first got into paddling, he didn’t have a water leg, so he and his instructor figured out some adaptations to make it safe for him to kayak with a regular prosthesis. “I just didn’t want to fall out of the boat and make a fool of myself—or drown,” Parrish laughs. “You have to have a rescue plan. I’m a big guy, so rescue for me looks different than it would for someone smaller. With a personal flotation device, I can push myself to the shore. Better yet, I try to avoid falling out by paying attention to my surroundings. If I’m on a lake, I paddle into the waves, even if it goes against my instincts, to keep from tipping over.”

Parrish’s first adaptation was made of foam that fit into his socket and mount. The materials changed over time, but the goal was always the same. “Basically, I needed to get both limbs in contact with the boat, so I wouldn’t go in circles,” says Parrish. “I needed two points to push off of, so I could paddle on both sides and control the direction of the boat.”

Parrish eventually did get a water leg, so he no longer needed a boat adaptation. But once he bought his own boat, he had to figure out how to load and unload it from his car, get it into the water, and then get it back onto the roof rack. Finding an accessible boat launch at a local park was a game changer, Parrish says. Its transfer bench and slide boards allow him to get his kayak into and out of the water with ease.

“I enjoy the view from the boat and seeing things along the shoreline,” Parrish says. “It’s like reading a book about different experiences. My soul feels free.”

Scuba Diving

Chris McClanathan took his first scuba lesson in a heated pool during a week-long VA camp for wounded veterans. His buoyancy as a bilateral amputee was different than before his amputation, so he had to relearn how to swim and float.

McClanathan kept working at it and eventually earned certification from Diveheart, an adaptive-sports nonprofit that operates in Illinois, Georgia, and elsewhere. His certification enables him to scuba dive in any setting, even with outfitters that don’t have specific expertise with adaptive divers. McClanathan can self-advocate because he knows what his abilities are and how to take care of himself during a dive. He uses an AMP Fin, a mechanical accessory that attaches to his prosthetic socket for swimming and diving, and Darkfin gloves with webbing on the back that allows him to manipulate his equipment while in the water.

A well-kept secret about scuba diving is that it’s one of the more accessible water sports. Most beginner lessons are held in swimming pools, so you can try it out at a local rec center instead of traveling to an oceanside location. Masks, tanks, and other equipment are all usually provided by the dive school, and you don’t have to be in great shape to sign up.

“Many skills are transferrable,” McClanathan says, “so if you learn techniques for an activity on land, you can carry it forward in the water.” So why don’t more amputees try scuba diving? “The biggest barriers are often in one’s own head,” he says. “I wasn’t into sports much growing up, but I’ve tried a lot of them for the first time after amputation. It’s never too late to start.”

Once you try scuba, your only regret may be that you didn’t get started sooner.


Exploring Water Sports with Prosthetics
Exploring Water Sports with Prosthetics

Lexi Kuppler grew up next to a lake and always felt at home on the water. That didn’t change even after she lost her left leg below the knee in a boating accident during high school. An all-around athlete, she ran track in college and competed in the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio. But water sports remained her first love.

That’s why she established a nonprofit called Brave the Wave. The organization holds events across the country to promote the sport of adaptive wakesurfing. A mashup of surfing, water skiing, and skateboarding/snowboarding, wakesurfing is a relatively new sport, particularly for adaptive riders. Participants stand on a modified surfboard and glide across a lake, dipping in and out of the waves that trail behind the boat.

“Wakesurfing is very adaptable to people of all ages, body types, and abilities,” says Kuppler. “It’s low impact, as you ride close to the boat at a low speed, and you can adapt the rider or the board in many ways.”

The biggest challenge, Kuppler says, is getting up on the board while the boat’s moving, especially if you’re a double above-knee amputee. “A coach in the water can help people get up and stabilize them, or coaches can ride tandem on the board,” she says. “We also have a seated cage that can be screwed on to surfboards and allows adaptive wavesurfers to ride just as intensely as anyone.”

The goal, she says, is to enable people to feel independent on and off the water. “Since the start of our program, we’ve seen people get inspired to eat healthier, try new things, and take control of other health issues,” Kuppler told a surfing website recently. “It’s truly a blessing to be able to help show people what they’re capable of.”

Dip a Toe Before You Dive In

Cosi Belloso, the amputee-focused physical therapist who hosts the popular Cosi Talks! show every week on YouTube, believes water sports can play an important role in rehab and long-range fitness.

“Sometimes my patients hesitate because they’re afraid I’ll tell them no,” Belloso says. “I want them to find a good starting point and set realistic expectations, but almost anything is possible.” Belloso suggests starting with the basics: how to get in and out of the water. “Start out small, with low expectations,” she advises. “Just go to a pool and see the environment, meet the lifeguard. Know that you’re going to run into obstacles, and that’s okay.”

Public pools often have pool lifts, aquatic wheelchairs, sloped entrances, or walk-in entries and handrails that can help amputees get in and out of the water. Outdoor environments (such as riverbanks or lakes) may offer support systems to help you navigate uneven and/or unpaved terrain. “You could be walking on different surfaces, going up or down steps or getting into a boat that’s rocking back and forth,” Belloso says. “Everything is constantly moving, and you need to be able to keep your balance.”

Larry Gioia, who holds special certification in adaptive paddling instruction from the American Canoe Association, starts newcomers at a county park near Pittsburgh. It’s a contained environment with relatively warm water and no power boats nearby. “I know kayaking, but my clients know themselves and their abilities,” he says. “Together, we figure out what we need to do to be realistic and keep them safe.”

Gioia shifted from traditional instruction to adaptive paddling several years ago. He got the idea after he saw a young boater zig-zagging all over the place instead of maintaining a straight line. When he got closer, Gioia saw the kid paddling with one arm. The incident inspired him to launch Dynamic Paddlers, which promotes adaptive canoeing and kayaking and provides high-quality education to kids and adults.

“My mission is simple,” Gioia says. “I want to help everybody and anybody who wants to get on the water. I want them to learn to paddle with the same confidence and independence as everybody else. Water is the ultimate equalizer. I can show you a picture of 20 boats, and you can’t tell me who in this picture has a disability and who doesn’t.”

The near-universal accessibility of water sports is what draws so many amputees to them, Gioia believes. Whether you’re an adventure seeker, retired veteran, aspiring Paralympian, or simply a person looking for something new to try, adaptive water sports offer an outstanding way to reach your goals and improve your quality of life.

“Surround yourself with good people, and connect with good programs and organizations,” says Corbitt. “You want to find people who know what they’re doing to make your experience safe, comfortable, and fun. Choose the opportunities that are right for you.”

Sidebar: Water Sports and Prosthesis Safety

That’s a major question for any amputee who wants to try water sports. Your everyday limb probably isn’t waterproof, and waterproof limbs are expensive to purchase. You don’t need a prosthesis for some water activities, but you do for others. Specialized equipment and adaptations can allow you to feel safe and comfortable in the water. Figure out what works for you and what doesn’t, communicate what you need, and recalibrate and adjust as necessary.

“As long as you’re wearing the right equipment, you can focus on just having fun,” says certified prosthetist Dave Rotter. While custom and commercial adaptations are readily available, you don’t have to commit to buying anything when you first get started. Improvised solutions are fine at first. Gioia once made a hand for an arm amputee out of foam and duct tape in his garage. Rotter suggests working with your prosthetist to find safe, sensible workarounds.

Belloso suggests that you don’t wear a prosthesis at all in the water. If you absolutely need one, she advises clients to hang on to their old sockets and add a cheap foot for a water leg. Start basic, she says. You don’t need fancy technology. Sometimes you might just need an extra lanyard strap or pin-lock to do the trick.

If you do have the funds and the need to buy your own equipment for water recreation, Belloso recommends College Park’s Sidekicks and Breeze for feet. The Sidekicks are multiaxial, adjustable stubbie feet with nice tread and some movement. Belloso recommends them especially for the pool, beach, and paddleboarding. The Breeze has a built-in drainage system and is durable and antimicrobial, which makes it a great option for a variety of outdoor adaptive water sports.

Both Rotter and Kuppler like BioDapt’s Versa foot. Kuppler, who studied kinesiology and prosthetics/orthotics in college, provides BioDapt feet and knee loaners at all her Brave the Wave events. “The key for wavesurfing is to have a knee that locks into position and doesn’t move,” she says. Arm amputees at her events often use deadlifting straps to help them with grip.

Finally, Belloso says, take extra care of your skin whenever you hit the water. Skin changes when it’s immersed, and that can affect socket fit, which in turn can lead to blisters or sores. She recommends that you take your prosthesis off every 30 minutes or so to dry it out and keep an eye on how your skin’s reacting.

Ready to dive into a world of exhilarating sports? Our range of advanced prosthetic solutions are designed to allow you to experiment with sports and live to your full potential. Don’t let limb loss hold you back from the adventures that await you. Contact us today at (888) 819-4721 and take the plunge. Follow us on Instagram at @SouthBeachOP for more tips on prosthetic care.

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How a Balanced Diet Can Help in Your Rehabilitation

As a prosthetics company, we understand the importance of proper nutrition in the recovery process. A healthy diet can aid in the body’s natural healing process and help speed up recovery time. It’s no secret that eating well is crucial for good health, but with so much conflicting information out there, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. Fortunately, there are simple ways to improve your diet that can have a big impact on your overall health.

While many people might be taking a pass on formal New Year’s resolutions this year, others may mark a fresh start by resolving to make up for poor eating habits of the past. But this motivation is often focused on a diet that’s too ambitious or restrictive. Without a solid plan, you may fail quickly. So consider a compromise: start with these three easy ways to eat a healthier diet.

Aim for real food only

Look at your plate and note what’s processed and what isn’t. Maybe it’s the whole thing (like a frozen dinner), or maybe it’s just part of your meal (like the bottled dressing on your salad). Think of where you can swap processed foods for healthier versions. Ideas include

  • eating whole-grain pasta instead of enriched white-flour spaghetti
  • having quinoa instead of white rice
  • making your own snacks like baked chickpeas, instead of opening a bag of potato chips.

Processed foods are linked with chronic inflammation and other health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. One of the healthiest diets you can eat is a Mediterranean-style eating plan rich in vegetables, legumes, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds, fish, poultry, and low-fat dairy products (milk, yogurt, small amounts of cheese).

Schedule your meals and snacks

Set timers on your phone for three different meals and two snacks (if you need them), and don’t eat in between these scheduled times. This might curb your cravings, reduce stress about when you’ll eat next, and cut down on the extra calories of unnecessary snacking — a real challenge if you’re close to a refrigerator all day while at home or work.

Avoid scheduling late-night meals or snacks, when your body’s internal clock (circadian rhythm) senses that you’re supposed to be sleeping. “During the circadian sleep period our metabolism slows, our digestive system turns down, and brain temperature drops, part of the process of clearing toxins during sleep. Eating at different times than our typical circadian awake phase leads to weight gain,” says Dr. Lawrence Epstein, associate physician with the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Reduce your portion sizes

Balanced Diet Rehabilitation

If you’re like most Americans, you’re eating too much food. An easy way to implement portion control: load your plate as you normally would, then put back a third or half of the food. Other ideas:

  • Use a salad plate instead of a dinner plate, to fool yourself into taking less food.
  • Keep serving bowls off the table, so you won’t be tempted to eat extra helpings.
  • Don’t linger at the table and keep eating when you’re already full.

It will also help to know how many calories you should consume in a day. For example, if you’re supposed to eat 2,000 calories per day but you’re scarfing down 3,000, it’s probably time to cut all of your usual portions by a third. How can you figure out your calorie needs? This body weight planner can help you strike a healthy balance between food and activity.

A final thought: Take just one step a week

You don’t need to incorporate all of these steps at one time; try one step per week. Write down what you’re eating and any thoughts or questions you have about the process. After a week, assess what worked and what didn’t. Before long, you’ll have the confidence to attempt new steps.

At South Beach Prosthetics, we are committed to helping our clients on their road to recovery. During your prosthetic journey, it’s important to take care of yourself and seek professional help. Get in touch with us today at (888) 819-4721 to learn more about how we can help. Follow us on Instagram for more tips and inspiration here!

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Amputees Fall Training

A fall is an unintentional loss of balance resulting in the individual coming to rest on the ground. People with limb loss have an increased risk of falling when compared to the general population and falls are associated with decreased confidence in balance and social participation. Not ok! You need to be out there and social — with confidence. It is important for a patient to be able to fall safely and here you can learn more about it.

People with lower-limb loss risk accidental falls more than their non-disabled peers. A study published in 2001 found that more than 52% of lower-limb amputees experience at least one fall every year, making it more than twice the rate of non-disabled elderly individuals.

To mitigate injuries from such falls, some people employ technical solutions to protect vulnerable areas of the body, like wearing padded garments, or pharmaceutical solutions, such as taking vitamin D to strengthen the bones. However, there is another effective yet mostly overlooked fall intervention — fall training.

So, researchers investigated how many individuals with limb loss have received fall training and what factors prevent its wider adoption.

The study  

To collect data, the researchers developed an online questionnaire targeting people with lower-limb loss nationwide. Out of the 180 responses, 166 were included in the analysis. More than two-thirds of the respondents reported not receiving fall training.

The researchers noted that considering the high incidence rate of falls among lower-limb amputees and the economic costs of falls, the numbers suggest an untapped potential in improving post-amputation care and long-term patient outcomes.

The researchers also found a discrepancy in whether fall training was received and who provided it. Numerous respondents stated not receiving proper fall training but listed a provider anyway.

Among the respondents, only 20 stated that they are taking tai chi or martial arts training, which have been deemed effective in helping mitigate injuries from accidental falls.

Other fall interventions  

Amputees Fall
Amputees Fall

Fall training helps individuals assess any situation and avoid falls. If falls happen, however, this training will provide techniques to mitigate injuries.

Fall training is comparable and compatible with other strategies, including Krav Maga, tai chi, and martial arts, to minimize the impact of falls on prosthetic users. Different methods can also help, including using the correct prosthetic components to improve balance, gait stability, and proprioception.

In 2019, researchers found that using microprocessor knees helped increase walking speed on flat and uneven terrain, improved balance perception, and reduced accidental falls. This finding is supported by another study that found 82 fewer falls per 100 people with microprocessor knees.

However, the drawback of microprocessor knees is their high cost. Compared to expensive prosthetic technology, fall training costs more reasonably. Despite the cost-effectiveness of fall training, it is still underused, wasting patients’ rehabilitation potential.

Who should be responsible for fall training?  

Many assume that fall training is a domain of physical therapists who provide prosthetic gait retraining and other limb-loss therapy interventions. But, only some prosthesis users have the means to receive physical therapy. The study highlighted that only 79% of the respondents received physical therapy. Furthermore, according to 27% of the respondents, only some physical therapy programs include proper fall training.

Although fall training does not reduce the number of accidental falls, it effectively reduces the severity of injuries from falls. It’s essential to bring this issue into the consciousness of a larger public, and hopefully, this information will help you advocate for yourself or a loved one.

South Beach Prosthetics is here for you & ready to provide good prosthetic care and support with the latest technology. Work closely with us to design a prosthesis that fits you perfectly! Get in touch with us today at (888) 819-4721 to learn more about how we can help. Find our Facebook community here.

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Tips for Better Quality Sleep

The power of a good night’s sleep — it is everything — for your healing and your entire well-being. Good sleep habits (sometimes referred to as “sleep hygiene”) can help you get a good night’s sleep. Don’t overlook this crucial element in your best health for 2023! It is just as important as your nutrition and exercise — and plays a huge role in your mental health! Here you can learn some habits that can improve your sleep health.

Although it’s vital to get seven to eight hours of sleep every night, it’s also essential to ensure that you’re getting good quality, deep sleep. This is because information processing, clearing toxins, cell repairing, and releasing human growth hormone happens during deep sleep.

The four stages of a sleep cycle  

Your body moves through an average of four to six sleep cycles every night. Each cycle lasts about 90 minutes and consists of four stages:

Stage 1 occurs within one to five minutes of a sleep cycle. This is when your breathing and heartbeat start to slow as you transition into sleep.

Stage 2 takes about 10 to 60 minutes. This phase is also known as light sleep, wherein your breathing and heart rate continue to slow.

Stage 3 takes about 20 to 40 minutes. This phase is known as deep sleep because it’s the deepest sleep you get throughout the night. This is when your brainwave frequencies slow down. It’s also difficult to wake up from this stage.

Stage 4 is also known as REM or Rapid Eye Movement sleep. This is when your eyes move quickly under your eyelids, your brain is active, and you have the most dreams.

Benefits of deep sleep  

Out of all the sleep stages, deep sleep only takes up 13% to 23% or between 55 to 97 minutes each night. Deep sleep is crucial because it’s essential for the optimal functioning of the brain and the body. This is because, during deep sleep, the following processes take place:

  • Processing of memories and information

  • Repairing any cell damage to boost the immune system

  • Clearing out toxins

  • The release of human growth hormone

Because deep sleep is crucial for the body, it’s essential to ensure you get enough of it. Below are ways to increase the deep sleep you’re getting at night.


Exercise can improve sleep by decreasing how long it takes to fall asleep. Exercise may also help realign your internal body clock and relieve anxiety, improving the quality of your sleep and increasing deep sleep.

Aerobic exercises, like jogging, work best to increase your deep sleep. In particular, moderate aerobic exercises, like walking, may help you spend more time in the deep sleep stage.

If you have insomnia, sleep experts recommend exercising earlier in the day. This is because exercise releases hormones that can stimulate your brain and make you feel more alert. In general, exercising at least three times per week can help improve your sleep quality.

Avoid caffeine close to bedtime  

Tips for Quality Sleep
Tips for Quality Sleep

Drinking caffeinated beverages, like coffee or tea, increases your brain and nervous system activity, making it harder to get deep sleep. Furthermore, caffeine can decrease all stages of sleep and cause sleep disruption. Sleep experts recommend avoiding caffeine after 3:00 pm. However, if you’re sensitive to caffeine, it’s best to avoid caffeine as early as noon, as caffeine’s effects may last longer than you think.

Get more sunlight  

Getting sunlight helps set your biological clock. Getting at least 10 to 30 minutes of sun exposure in the morning cues your body that it’s wake-up time. So when it’s bedtime, you’re ready to sleep better.

A small study in 2014 explored the effects of getting at least 30 minutes of sunlight at 11:00 am every day for six weeks. The researchers found that people who got their dose of the sun had better quality sleep than those who didn’t get sunlight in their daily routines.

Take hot baths before bedtime  

A hot bath increases core body temperature, which drops when you get out of the tub. This temperature shift is identical to when you fall asleep, so it signals to your body that it’s time to sleep.

In a 2019 study, researchers found that taking a hot bath before bed can help you fall asleep faster and increase your deep sleep. However, the researchers also noted that more studies are still needed.

Sleep experts recommend taking a hot bath one and a half hours before bedtime to get its benefits. In addition, the bath should last at least 10 minutes, giving your body time to heat.

Use a sleep eye mask  

Sleep eye masks help block light that can prevent or reduce sleep quality. Light signals to the body that it’s time to wake up, so it’s important to keep light away from your eyes.

In a 2017 study, researchers found that combining a sleep mask and earplugs helped improve sleep quality.

If you’re not a fan of sleep masks, you might want to install blackout curtains in your room. But bring a sleep mask when traveling to get good sleep quality wherever you may be.

The bottom line  

When it comes to taking good care of yourself, good quality sleep is just as important as nutrition and exercise. But ensuring you get good quality deep sleep is vital for repairing cell damage and learning.

The good news is that you can control the quality of your sleep by ensuring you get sunlight during the day, exercising, avoiding caffeine close to bedtime, taking hot baths, and using sleep masks.

Everything we do, we do with our patient’s unique goals and needs in mind. Work closely with us to design a prosthesis that fits you perfectly! Get in touch with us today at (888) 819-4721 to learn more about how we can help. Find our Facebook community here.

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Navigating Difficult Times

Life has its ups and downs, and a lot of the things we’ve planned don’t work as we thought. (Understatement of the year, right?) Finding purpose and changing routines is key to coping with moments like these. With the year coming to an end, take some time to evaluate changes and readapt. Below you can check out ways to make your struggles bearable —  and, most importantly, find joy.

An older adult patient once told me, “There are good decades and bad decades.” I remember the shock at hearing this — the patient was referring to the relationship with his wife. For many of us, 10 years seems like a very long time to struggle. How do we find joy when experiencing difficulties — or how do we at least make our struggles bearable?

Loss of joy may be a sign of a mental health problem — or it may be a normal response

Life has its ups and downs, but sometimes challenging events occur all at once. When our world is turned upside down, it’s normal to feel a lack of joy. Health problems, losses, breakups, housing challenges, natural disasters — the list of severe stressors and traumatic events is long. Most adults will experience multiple severe traumas and losses throughout their lives. Loss of joy in these contexts is a natural part of the human experience.

For some people, however, the lack of joy persists or appears out of the blue. This may occur in a mood disorder like depression. The inability to feel pleasure (also known as anhedonia) is even part of the diagnostic criteria for depression, and it’s pretty common. Approximately 8% of U.S. adults will experience depression in a given year, and approximately 20% will experience an episode of depression during their lifetime. A loss of joy may also accompany other mental illnesses, including psychotic illnesses and dementia. Certain medications, including (paradoxically) those that treat depression, can also cause emotional blunting and a loss of joy.

What’s the difference between joy and happiness?

Joy and happiness are often used interchangeably. However, happiness technically refers to the pleasurable feelings (emotions) that result from a situation, experience, or objects, whereas joy is a state of mind that can be found even in times of grief or uncertainty. Thus, we can work on cultivating joy independent of our circumstances. Winning the lottery may trigger (short-term) happiness; spending time engaging in meaningful activities may result in long-term joy.

Joy and feel-good neurotransmitters

Navigating Difficult Times
Navigating Difficult Times

Although the neurobiology of joy is complex, there are a few neurotransmitters that stand out in promoting positive feelings: dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins. The good news is that many changes to our lives can increase these neurotransmitter levels. For example, running may produce a “runner’s high;” spending time with a baby releases oxytocin, the “cuddle hormone” that makes you feel connected.

The effects of neurotransmitters on the body are broad, from relaxing your muscles to speeding up your heart rate, but they may result in a final common pathway of promoting positive feelings. Whether it’s finding a sense of purpose or enjoying supportive relationships, the benefits on the mind and body are far-reaching.

How do you increase joy?

During difficult times, it becomes twice as important to modify your routine, allowing yourself to experience joy. Here are some ideas, although it may take some trial and error to find what works best for you:

  • Perform regular aerobic physical activity. Think of physical activity as releasing a bubble bath of neurotransmitters — and their effects linger long after the exercise is over.
  • Dedicate yourself to others. Activities such as volunteering produce greater joy than focusing on oneself.
  • Connect with your spiritual side. When we join with something larger than ourselves, we develop feelings of gratitude, compassion, and peace. Meditation is a powerful way to modify brain pathways to increase joy.
  • Discover something new. As humans, we are hard-wired to experience joy when experiencing novelty. Developing a new pursuit can help us refocus our energy.
  • Give yourself permission to take a few moments of pleasure, especially when you are feeling low.
  • Pay attention to the good. A joyous mindset can be developed, but takes practice.
  • Conversely, limit negativity. Whether it’s gossipy coworkers, a toxic relationship with a family member, or a complaining friend, spending time around a negative mindset influences us directly. It’s okay to set limits.
  • Focus your efforts on what brings meaning to your life (and don’t focus on money).
  • Ask your doctor about whether your medications can affect your ability to experience pleasure, especially if you are taking antidepressants.

Surprising benefits of joy

Regardless of the changes you make to your mindset or to your daily routine, increasing your ability to find joy may provide long-lasting health benefits. Your immune system can be strengthened by your mental state (immune cells even have receptors for neurotransmitters). Interventions to increase joy may also decrease stress hormones, improve pain, and relieve depression. Finally, finding joy can help you live longer.

South Beach Prosthetics stands with you every step of the way. Wherever you are in your prosthetic journey, you can count on our support & expertise to get you where you need to be. Get in touch with us today at (888) 819-4721 to learn more about how we can help. Join us! Find our Facebook community here.

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Take Good Care of Yourself with Massage Therapy

An amputee’s successful rehabilitation journey includes a variety of approaches. A key element in rehabilitation provided to new amputees is massage therapy. Whether used as a preventative and maintenance measure or an integral element in the different rehabilitation phases — the benefits are excellent. Learn more about it by reading below. 

Losing a limb is a physical and psychological trauma that has a profound influence on the life of an amputee. Providing comprehensive rehabilitation services and programs to individuals in recovery is, unsurprisingly, a complex process. To address the individual’s unique functional, emotional, social, and psychological needs, a multidisciplinary team approach is often required. This approach is often called a “team approach” or “integrated healthcare.”

The benefits of a “team” working on behalf of an amputee are lovingly described by Dr. Terrance Sheehan, director of the Amputee Coalition Science and Medical Advisory Board, as follows:

The care offered to those with limb loss, especially early in their recovery, needs to be given by many people. Whether it is the love of a significant other, the compassion of a nurse or the optimism of a therapist, help and healing needs to come from many. The person new to limb loss needs to accomplish a lot of work and timely success depends upon a cohesive group of professionals coming together to provide the tools to accomplish that success. This team cannot do the work of the person with limb loss, but they can ease the burden, quicken the pace, and shine the light on the path ahead (“The Team Approach”).

Recently, it has been recognized that there was a missing element in the rehabilitation services being provided to new amputees.  In response to this need, massage therapy has been integrated into many amputee rehabilitation programs.

What is Massage Therapy?

Massage therapy is used to prevent and treat physical dysfunction and pain through applying various manual techniques to the soft tissue of the body (muscles, connective tissue, or fascia) and joints.  It is recognized as a noninvasive therapy, which, when applied by a trained licensed massage therapist, can have several highly beneficial effects.

Amputees often experience pain in muscles and joints that are not directly associated with the area of amputation. These areas are called “compensatory structures” because they are required to perform additional functions to compensate for limitations resulting from the amputation. This imbalance in muscle activity often results in muscular tightness, stiffness, and spasms, which may manifest in a variety of ways across different levels of amputation as well as different areas of each individual’s body.

It is necessary to determine the possible cause of muscular restrictions and reported pain to develop an appropriate treatment plan. The massage therapy treatment may consist of trigger point therapy, joint mobilization, and specific massage techniques to the affected soft tissue. Education in proper posture and instruction in-home care (stretching, for example) are also important elements of massage treatment.

Every amputee is unique in their recovery journey. Many factors can contribute to the rehabilitation process such as age, overall health, cause of amputation, and their current stage of amputation. Please consult with your healthcare team before deciding to add any course of treatment.

Ultimately, massage therapy can be of great benefit to amputees, whether as a preventive or maintenance measure or as an integral element in the various phases of rehabilitation. It is highly recommended that amputees receive massage therapy in conjunction with beginning prosthetic training and ongoing prosthetic use. This can help prevent muscle strain, tightness, and related pain symptoms that may develop due to alterations in posture and biomechanics combined with the new demands placed on the muscles directly and indirectly involved.

Benefits of Massage Therapy

Massage Therapy

Massage therapy can produce short-term or long-term relief from a variety of symptoms. It is important to stress that even short-term relief can have a huge positive effect psychologically. Several studies suggest that massage therapy is also highly effective in reducing stress and anxiety and in increasing sleep duration – all important factors that can affect an amputee’s quality of life.

Some of the reported benefits of massage therapy include:

  • Reduced swelling
  • Increased circulation
  • Less muscle stiffness
  • Reduced scar tissue tightness
  • Reduced spasms
  • Increased muscle length
  • Less pain
  • Decreased anxiety and stress
  • Longer sleep
  • Increased relaxation

Common Amputee Conditions Treatable by Massage Therapy

  • Phantom Limb Pain
  • Residual Limb Pain
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Muscle Tightness, Stiffness, and Spasms (Contractures)
  • Scar Tissue Effects (tightness, itching, or pain)
  • Swelling
  • Poor Blood Circulation

We’re committed to your health and mobility — and this goes far beyond just providing prosthetics. We want you to regain independence and return to a life you love. Contact us today at (888) 819-4721 to get the best prosthetic care. Find our Facebook community here.

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Manage Stress With These Tips

No one is entirely stress-free, but when you’re dealing with a new condition or pain, it’s even hard to stay positive. Luckily, there are some techniques that can help you relieve stress and start feeling better. Read below and start practicing! Where we can assist you, you can better believe that we will! Just call us! 

Since no one is entirely stress-free, knowing how to manage stress and your energy has become vital to improving your quality of life. We discussed the common signs and symptoms of experiencing too much pressure in the previous article. In this article, we break down how you can deal with stress.

Positive Self-Talk  

We all talk to ourselves mostly in our heads and sometimes aloud. Our self-talk can be negative (“I’m so stupid”) or positive (“I can do this”). While we might not think much of it, negative self-talk has the power to increase stress, while positive self-talk can help keep you calm. Many of us find ourselves doing more of the former, but the good news is that you can shift your default self-talk mode with practice.

So, instead of saying, “I can’t do this,” say, “I won’t lose if I try. I can do this.”

If you’re used to telling yourself, “I’ll never improve,” change it to “I can improve. I’ll take it one small step at a time.”

Instead of telling yourself, “I screwed up,” every time you make a mistake, say, “It’s alright. I’m human, and I make mistakes. I’ll do better next time.”

Practice talking to yourself positively every day, whether in the grocery store, at your desk, or whenever you notice that you talk negatively to yourself.

Create A List of Emergency Stress Relievers  

We will find ourselves in situations where defusing stress is crucial. This can be in a work meeting or discussing certain subjects with your loved ones. In moments like these, you must know how to defuse stress before burning relationships that are important to you.

Prepare for times like these by coming up with a list of emergency stress relievers. You may need different tactics for various situations, and sometimes it helps to combine them.

Examples of emergency stress relievers:

  • Walk away from the confrontation.

  • Count to 10 before speaking or reacting

  • Take slow, deep breaths until you feel your body relax.

  • If you can, pace around the room. This helps defuse extra energy from stress.

  • Sleep on it and respond the next day if it’s not urgent. This works incredibly well for stressful emails or social media trolls.

  • Break down issues into smaller, manageable chunks

  • Pet a dog or talk to someone you trust

  • Workout. Exercise is a great stress reliever.

Make Time for Rest  

Manage Stress With These Tips

Balance your workday or week with some relaxing, healing activities. Find your happy place and make time for it. This is essential to help you avoid burnout.

Some healing activities you might want to try:

  • Reading a book or a magazine

  • Painting, drawing, or coloring

  • Watching your favorite show

  • Walking outdoors

  • Working in the garden

  • Doing a home improvement project

  • Meeting a friend for coffee or a meal

  • Meditating

  • Going on a bike ride

The important thing is to find what works for you. You’ll feel better once you stop the stress loop.

South Beach Prosthetics stands with you every step of the way. Wherever you are in your journey, you can count on our support & expertise to get all the prosthetic care you need. Get in touch with us today at (888) 819-4721 to learn more about how we can help. Find our Facebook community here.

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