Phantom Limb Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Phantom limb pain was for a long time poorly understood. In recent years, advances in medicine are changing that. The first step in treating phantom pain is to acknowledge that phantom pain is both very common and very real. Here you can go through the symptoms, treatment options, and how to cope with pain. At South Beach Prosthetics, we understand the journey you are undertaking. We stand with you – not just at this moment, but in your continued journey as you navigate these challenges.

As many as 80% of people who have an amputation experience some kind of “phantom” sensation in their amputated limbs. However, up to half of those who experience these disturbing feelings do not receive any treatment for—or relief from—their pain. This makes phantom pain a chronic pain condition that needs to be addressed in order to improve the quality of life for those who have had an amputation.

What Is Phantom Limb Pain?

Phantom Limb Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

After a limb is removed, you may continue to feel it, as though it were still there. Phantom limb pain is not the same thing as stump pain, which is felt in and around the incision following surgery. Stump pain is localized to the amputation site, while phantom pain is felt in some part of the leg that is no longer attached.

Many people describe burning sensations in their toes though they may be missing their entire leg below the knee. This can be a confusing and even scary sensation, leading some people to believe that they are losing their minds.

The first step in treating phantom pain is to acknowledge that phantom pain is very common and very real.

Theories About Causes

No one knows for sure why amputees have phantom pain, but a few possible explanations are widely believed to be true.

  • Memory of Limb Pain: Some researchers theorize that after a limb is damaged beyond repair, the brain is “used to” feeling the pain. Even after the limb has been removed, the brain continues to sense the same kind of pain. It is like having a memory of the pain because the pain is wired into the brain.
  • Nerve Bundle Stimulation: The severed nerves around the amputation site either misfire or are stimulated in some way, sending a pain message to the brain. These are the same nerves that used to reach all the way into the limb. Sometimes following surgery, these nerves form bundles called neuromas. When they fire, the brain interprets these signals as if the nerve were still intact, and “feels” pain in the toes.
  • Rewiring of the Nervous System: There has been evidence that when a limb is amputated, changes take place in the brain and spinal cord that cause pain to be interpreted differently than before. It is not yet clear, however, if this is a cause of phantom pain or if this happens as a result of it.


Regardless of its cause, phantom pain can be a debilitating condition. Pain is often described as burning, stabbing and throbbing—typical descriptor words for neuropathic pain. Phantom pain may happen in a continuous cycle, or it may be brought on by outside factors, such as temperature change, stress or stump irritation.

Most people describe their phantom pain as if it were coming from the distal parts (parts furthest from the core of the body) of the amputated limb. In other words, feet, toes or hands. Phantom sensations are more common in the first few months after surgery than they are several months down the road, but they can happen at any time after an amputation.

Treatment Options

Like most chronic pain conditions, no single treatment approach works for everybody. Here are some of the most common approaches.

  • Medication: Because it is considered a neuropathic disorder, antidepressants and anticonvulsants are often prescribed for phantom pain. NSAIDs, opioids, and muscle relaxants are also on the list of medications. As with other chronic pain conditions, finding the right medication can take time and patience. Sometimes successful phantom pain relief takes a combination of these medications.
  • Mirror therapy: Many therapists use mirror therapy in their treatments both for those with phantom limb pain and for those who have had a stroke. This usually involves placing both limbs in a mirror box, which makes the amputated limb appear intact. The individual is then asked to perform exercises with “both” limbs. This tricks the brain and effectively reduces phantom pain for some people. Further studies are needed to see if mirror therapy offers relief, though unlike many treatments, there is little potential for side effects with this treatment.
  • Stump stimulation: Using TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation), applying pain-relief patches (such as the lidocaine patches available by prescription or over the counter) or rubbing the stump can relieve phantom pain in some people. Using hot packs and cold packs can work for some people. Providing an alternate sensation from the stump can interrupt pain signals.
  • Cognitive therapies: Some people find relief from their phantom pain through hypnosis, relaxation or guided imagery. These approaches can change the way the brain interprets phantom sensations, including phantom pain.

Additional Treatment Options for Phantom Limb Pain

Usually, more than one treatment approach is used to get phantom pain under control. Some people, however, may require more invasive forms of treatment.

These include additional surgery to untangle nerve bundles at the amputation site, nerve blocks, stimulation of the spinal cord or the brain to change the way pain is interpreted and implantation of pain pumps that deliver medications directly to the spinal cord.

Support and Coping

As with other medical conditions, chronic pain affects our emotional lives as well as our physical being. Many people with phantom limb pain have found psychotherapy helpful in adjusting to their amputation and in learning many of the relaxation and coping skills which can reduce pain.

In addition, talking to others who have faced similar challenges can be priceless, and there are several online support groups, support organizations, and Facebook communities dedicated to those who are coping with an amputation as well as phantom limb pain.

Bottom Line on Phantom Limb Pain

We’ve learned that a significant number of people who undergo an amputation live with phantom limb pain, and for those who do, there are many people who are not adequately treated for this pain. Chronic pain can affect every aspect of your life, impacting your job, your relationships, and your ability to enjoy your passions.

There are now pain specialists who specialize in treatment difficult-to-manage pain such as phantom limb pain. As noted above, it can be a laborious process finding the right combination of treatments to get this pain under control, but with persistence, many people can live a much more enjoyable life after amputation.

Some people have found that keeping a pain journal is helpful in learning what helps, and what does not, as various modalities are tried, as many of the methods may blend together as you look back. In addition to finding a physician, you can work with to manage your pain, check out these ideas on what you can do yourself to best cope with chronic pain.

As a final note, there are many lifestyle habits which can make chronic pain worse, for example, both eating junk food and smoking can increase chronic pain. Taking the time to live healthy may not only lessen your pain but improve your general health as well.

From highly personalized attention to customized in-home solutions, our mission is to empower you to lead the lifestyle you want to live. Give us a call today at (888) 819-4721 to learn more about how we can help or find us on Facebook. Don’t forget – we also offer FREE transportation to your prosthetics appointments. Just give us a call!

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6 Possible Causes of Hip Pain When Sitting

Sitting with an incorrect posture can cause a variety of issues in prosthetic users. A common one is a hip pain. Learn some tips on how to avoid certain positions – and how to recover from and alleviate the pain. At South Beach Prosthetics, we understand the journey you are taking, and we will assist you in every step of the process. We even offer free transportation to your prosthetic appointments! (Just call (888) 819-4721 and ensure we have two days’ notice to get you on our schedule!)

Experiencing hip pain when sitting can be caused by different things, including incorrect posture and medical conditions. An imbalance in the body often causes general hip pain in prosthetic users. After amputation, other joints and muscles have to carry extra weight and may be subjected to more stress. This imbalance is often exacerbated when sitting with an incorrect posture.

For many prosthetic users, addressing hip pain when sitting can mean working with a physical therapist who can design an exercise program that can be done at home. Regular exercise is known to strengthen and retrain muscles, especially after limb loss.

Walking is one of the best exercises to help relieve hip pain. But a good program for prosthetic users can also include balance exercises and back extension training—all are essential to help decrease the stress on the hips and the low back.

If you’re a prosthetic user experiencing hip pain, we highly recommend seeing your physical therapist at least once a year for gait evaluation. Regular gait evaluation ensures that your prosthetic limb and body are in good shape. It also helps prevent hip or lower back pain, increasing or exacerbating symptoms of phantom limb pain.

However, if you’re sure that your gait or prosthetic limb isn’t the cause of your hip pain when sitting, please continue reading. Your discomfort may be caused by one or a combination of any of the conditions we outlined below.

What does pain in the hips mean?  

Pain in the hip can range from mild or dull discomfort to severe or sharp pain. It’s also common for the hip joint to pop or feel stiff while sitting.

However, diagnosing pain in the hip area isn’t as straightforward as it can seem. Pain in the hips may come from the hip joint or any surrounding nerves, tendons, muscles, blood vessels, and ligaments.

Possible causes of hip pain when sitting  


The sciatic nerve is the longest and widest nerve in the body. It runs from the lower back to the area just below the knees. A person experiencing sciatica will often describe the pain as originating in the buttock area or lower back and traveling into one or both legs. The pain itself can be described as burning, shooting, or stabbing pain. Numbness and weakness can also occur.

For people with lower-limb amputation, sciatica may indicate an increase in size or hypertrophy of the sciatic nerve. But sitting for long periods can also lead to sciatica.

Treatments for sciatica include chiropractic treatments like transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), ultrasound, spinal alignment, and hot or cold therapy. Specific exercises and stretches, as well as pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory drugs, can also be prescribed.


Ischial bursitis or simply ‘bursitis’ is severe inflammation in the ischial tuberosity or sitting bone. Many above-knee prosthetic users complain about pain in this area because the ischial tuberosity typically absorbs body weight when they sit or wear their prostheses.

Bursitis develops due to the inflammation of the bursae—tiny sacs that lubricate the areas between the muscles and the bones to reduce friction. When the bursae undergo too much friction, they fill up with fluid in an attempt to protect the tendon.

Your physician may recommend exercise, rest, hot or cold treatments, pain and anti-inflammatory medications, splints, braces, or physical therapy to treat bursitis.


When inflamed, tendons can be painful, irritated, or swollen. You may feel pain in the area in front of the hip or the groin if you have tendinitis. You may also notice clicking or snapping sensations.

Your physician may recommend rest, cold therapy, compression, physical or occupational therapy, splints or braces, pain and anti-inflammatory medications, corticosteroid injections, or surgery to treat tendinitis.

Causes of Hip Pain When Sitting


Osteoarthritis, one of the most common types of arthritis, is a chronic condition caused by the breaking down of cartilage, which allows the bones to rub together.

Those who suffer from osteoarthritis report stiffness, loss or limited movement, and pain. Those who experience osteoarthritis in the hip area may also feel pain inside the thigh or knee, buttocks, or groin.

Your physician may recommend surgery, exercise, or weight loss to treat or relieve osteoarthritis pain.

Rheumatoid arthritis  

Rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic inflammatory disease, occurs when the immune system is compromised. In the hip, rheumatoid arthritis manifests as stiffness and swelling in the groin, thigh, or hip. Sufferers also report feeling pain in those areas.

Your physician may recommend topical pain relief products like patches, pain and anti-inflammatory medication, rest and exercise, or hot and cold treatments to treat rheumatoid arthritis.

Posture, sitting position  

Sometimes, hip pain is caused by something as simple as an incorrect posture or sitting position. Regularly hunching over a desk or while walking can lead to hip pain. This is because sitting without proper support for the hips or the back increases pressure on the hips. When this area is repeatedly strained, it can cause pain over time.

Be conscious of your body when you sit. As much as possible, avoid sitting cross-legged or leaning over to one side. One side of your hips has to deal with the pressure of more weight, which results in hip pain.

Also, be mindful when sitting on an uneven and unstable surface, like a cushion that’s too soft. Doing so causes your body to tilt to one side, putting more pressure on one side of the hips. This added pressure leads to poor posture as well as pain in the hip area when sitting.

If you feel pain in the hips when sitting, please consult your physician as soon as possible. They can perform tests or scans to pinpoint the cause of the pain accurately. However, if there’s a good reason you can’t see your doctor right away, you can alleviate the pain by using a seat with ample back support, stretching regularly throughout the day, or getting a massage.

But if your hip pain gets worse or does not go away, do not delay consulting your doctor or prosthetist. The pain may be caused by a pinched nerve or an autoimmune disease.

We will make sure you have what it takes for a successful recovery. South Beach Prosthetics develops and provides comfortable, high-performance prosthetic solutions that meet all patient requirements in a compassionate and supportive environment with ongoing solutions and care.
Connect with us to learn more and schedule your complimentary consultation.
or find us on South Beach Prosthetics Facebook Page.

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Getting a Grip: Fingerprint Findings Could Boost Prosthetics Research

2021 is here — a new year with so much potential. It will be interesting to see what new technologies will be coming down the pike in 2021. Here is a glimpse at discoveries that may improve prosthetics research and development.

Our fingerprints have a self-regulating moisture mechanism that not only helps us to avoid dropping our phones halfway through an ambitious selfie, but could also help scientists to develop better prosthetic limbs, robotic equipment and virtual reality environments, suggests new research.

Primates – including humans, monkeys and apes – have evolved epidermal ridges on their hands and feet with a higher density of sweat glands than elsewhere on their bodies. This allows precise regulation of skin moisture to give greater levels of grip when manipulating objects.

Fingerprints help to increase friction when in contact with smooth surfaces, boost grip on rough surfaces and enhance tactile sensitivity. Their moisture-regulating mechanism ensures the best possible hydration of the skin’s keratin layer to maximise friction.

Researchers at the University of Birmingham worked with partners at research institutions in South Korea, including Seoul National University and Yonsei University – publishing their findings today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Fingerprint Findings Could Boost Prosthetics Research

Co-author Mike Adams, Professor in Product Engineering and Manufacturing, at the University of Birmingham commented: “Primates have evolved epidermal ridges on their hands and feet. During contact with solid objects, fingerprint ridges are important for grip and precision manipulation. They regulate moisture levels from external sources or the sweat pores so that friction is maximised and we avoid ‘catastrophic’ slip and keep hold of that smartphone.”

“Understanding the influence of finger pad friction will help us to develop more realistic tactile sensors – for example, applications in robotics and prosthetics and haptic feedback systems for touch screens and virtual reality environments.”

Ultrasonic lubrication is commonly used in touch screen displays that provide sensory ‘haptic’ feedback, but its effectiveness is reduced when a user has dry compared with moist finger pads. Moreover, being able to distinguish between fine-textured surfaces, such as textiles, by touch relies on the induced lateral vibrations but the absence of sliding friction inhibits our ability to identify what we are actually touching.

Fingerprints are unique to primates and koalas – appearing to have the dual function of enhancing evaporation of excess moisture whilst providing a reservoir of moisture at their bases that enables grip to be maximised.

The researchers have discovered that, when finger pads are in contact with impermeable surfaces, the sweat from pores in the ridges makes the skin softer and thus dramatically increases friction. However, the resulting increase in the compliance of the ridges causes the sweat pores eventually to become blocked and hence prevents excessive moisture that would reduce our ability to grip objects.

Using hi-tech laser-based imaging technology, the scientists found that moisture regulation could be explained by the combination of this sweat pore blocking and the accelerated evaporation of excessive moisture from external wetting as a result of the specific cross-sectional shape of the epidermal furrows when in contact with an object.

These two functions result in maintaining the optimum amount of moisture in the fingerprint ridges that maximises friction whether the finger pad is initially wet or dry.

“This dual-mechanism for managing moisture has provided primates with an evolutionary advantage in dry and wet conditions – giving them manipulative and locomotive abilities not available to other animals, such as bears and big cats,” added Professor Adams.

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South Beach Prosthetics is here to help you with all of your needs — every step of the way. You can find us on Facebook at or connect with us at


When an individual loses a limb, many physical changes and challenges are expected. It’s not always easy, but we can learn and benefit from others’ advice and experiences. Support is our work language. We chose to start this year with an inspiring story. Welcome 2022  — and don’t let anything stand in the way of your goals! Remember – we are here to support your process at every turn. Did you know we also offer mentor programs and support in many other ways? Give us a call and let’s talk! 

“The important thing is not to win, but to take part.” This quote from Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympics, is very familiar in the realm of international athletics. But this summer, I felt my opportunity to show up for the Paralympic Games was taken away from me. Despite meeting national team standards in my event (long jump), setting regional records, and winning Paralympic team trials, I did not hear my name called to represent Team USA in Tokyo. I was devastated. I felt robbed by loopholes in selection criteria and a dash of bad luck.

But the hardest part wasn’t that I felt betrayed. It’s that I felt like a betrayer. My partner and family members had uprooted their lives in support of my goal. We moved states, endured a pandemic, spent time and money that took us away from other things, all to support my competing in Tokyo. I’d done everything I could to keep up my side of the deal and make everyone’s sacrifice worth it, but I still came up short.

I felt really guilty—like I’d let everyone down.

In the midst of my disappointment, I got a phone call from Lauren Panasewicz (better known as LP), director of development for the Range of Motion Project. “I don’t want to be insensitive,” she said, “but I have a feeling your passport is up to date?” This clever woman was right! My book was all ready to be stamped for Tokyo, but now I had no destination. LP had an alternative at the ready: “We would love to have you come and join us with an Elite Team Climb in an attempt to summit Cotopaxi,” she said.

I’d had a few previous conversations with LP about ROMP’s annual fundraising trek in Ecuador, which has taken place every year since 2015 (except 2020, due to the pandemic). The timing never worked out because I was always training for track, but in this case the timing was perfect. I wanted to run away from reality; I was desperate for relief. Gallivanting off to Ecuador to skip to the top of some mountains seemed like an opportunity to find who I was again, outside of the track.

Years ago, one of my coaches asked me to help a teammate who, like me, had a history with cancer. It was a weird time in my life, and I was managing a lot of emotional turmoil, so when I expressed my hesitation—I wasn’t in a good head space, I was going through my own stuff, I didn’t know what to say—my coach said: “Sometimes we fill our cups by filling others.”

LP’s offer brought those words back to mind. I was feeling broken after losing my shot at the Paralympics, and after advocating for myself against a giant system designed to make me feel disposable. But even in my pain, I realized my life has been decorated with privilege. I’ve only had one bad prosthetic experience in my whole life, which is basically unheard of. I’ve had the opportunity to compete in cheerleading, college athletics, and international track and field. I’ve never wondered how I’d be able to get the equipment I need. I’ve had a strong support system where everyone gives their best effort to see I succeeded.

ROMP exists for the 90 percent of the world’s amputees who are far less privileged, and who can’t get access to even the most basic assistive technology. ROMP’s global mission is to provide prosthetic and mobility devices to underserved amputees in the US, Ecuador, and Guatemala. This was a cause I could easily support, and have supported over the years with the Amputee Coalition’s youth camp. I knew my life experience, my voice, and even my pain could fill the cup of others while I waited for healing for myself.


Despite being a Colorado native, I had no experience in mountaineering, and there wouldn’t be much time to train before the trip. But I’d just had the best track season of my life, so I figured I was in good enough shape. Hiking is just walking, right? I agreed to go, secure in my ability to haul my experiences, knowledge, and privilege up Cotopaxi to help others.

I never considered that I might have to surrender my pride and accept help from somebody else.

After I lost my right leg to cancer at age 9, I spent decades trying to “make up” for needing help. I call this my “super-amputee” phase, where I tried to prove to everyone—most importantly myself—that I didn’t need anyone to take care of me. This was my way of seeking forgiveness for the sin of being dependent. When you acquire a disability, it doesn’t just disrupt your own life, it disrupts everyone around you. That’s incredibly hard, especially for women, who are raised not to make noise and to be agreeable and accommodating.

Genetically, I am not designed like that. I played sports. I got good grades. I got scholarships. Graduated Cum Laude. Became a professional athlete. Became the best in the country. Performed on the biggest stage in the world. Started my own business. That competitive drive has always been in me, but a part of it came from a place of shame over my disability.

The funny thing about mental health, especially after you have sorted through some deep-seeded stuff, is that your unhealthy thoughts don’t ever actually go away. You carry them around and just learn to manage them better while still moving forward with life. I came into therapy only knowing how to use a hammer to smash my problems to pieces, but my psychologist helped me find new tools. Because not every challenge is a nail that you can pound into submission. Some are screws you have to tighten. Some are burrs you file down.

And some, I discovered shortly after joining my ROMP teammates in Ecuador, are ropes you cling to on the side of a glacial volcano in the Andes.

I would love to assert that I handled this new challenge with grace. But even though I was acutely aware of having my every word recorded by videographers from one of ROMP’s sponsors, I did not nail it in the poise department during our training hike on Ruminahui, a couple of days before the Cotopaxi ascent. The amount of profanities I was shouting in between shallow, high-altitude breaths would even make my Italian grandmother blush. This was more than a hike. It was more than a climb. It was my opportunity to look into a mirror made of the earth while being pushed to a point of frustration and discomfort. And it was also a chance to realize that, after months of feeling like I was being pushed down by forces beyond my control, there were hands reaching for me to pull me back up and push me forward.

When we reached the summit of Ruminahui, I wept. A tangle of emotions came out in those sobs—my frustration at the obstacles that kept me from Tokyo, as well as my gratitude for the support of the people around me. My ROMP teammates helped me see that I could still overcome the obstacles that really mattered. It felt like a hyper-condensed version of my career in athletics—and as an amputee. You measure your progress in tiny increments, meters or centimeters, while learning more about yourself than any school will ever teach you. When it goes well, it’s the best high in the world. When it doesn’t go well, it feels like a curse.

You would think after my run-in with Ruminahui that I would heed the warning of wait might await on the climb to Cotopaxi. But the distance was shorter, I had acclimated to the altitude, and I now had “experience.” And I was with a group of dynamic people, both disabled and non-disabled, who cared about something greater than themselves. It felt like family. I was vibrant with anticipation.

Before this trip, I was hesitant about spending so much time in the company of “mountain people.” I was so far out of my element, I might as well have been an alien from another planet. But from the day I arrived, everybody made me feel welcome. Karl Egloff—the fastest man to summit these mountains—spent time talking with me about the similarities between elite athletics and advanced mountaineering. Paul, the workhorse guide on my rope team, was indisputably the most patient man alive. I was the slowest, weakest, and loudest person on the climb. But even though I had entered a sacred space for these mountain people and didn’t honor it the way I knew they did, they still made me feel cared for and important.

That was probably the most moving part of the entire trip. I was carrying so much guilt and shame for things beyond my control that I didn’t realize how heavy it felt. The day before we left for the Cotopaxi summit, as I struggled and complained on a lower stretch of the mountain, Karl offered to grab my backpack. When he took the load from me, I almost felt like I levitated—and I recognized, with a shock, how much weight I’ve been dragging around. I was reminded of a quote I used to love: “It’s not the load that breaks you down. It’s how you carry it.”

That thought reverberated with every step on the summit ascent. If there is a hell for amputees, it’s covered in sand and ice. Cotopaxi has both. We started up at 10 pm, and it immediately became obvious that climbing an icy mountain in sheer darkness with no experience was going to require one thing – mental toughness. Panic is the enemy. Thinking about how bad it hurts is not helpful. Worrying that you’re not getting enough oxygen is not productive. Whenever I exerted a lot of energy I would feel nauseous, so I became hopeful that if I puked maybe Paul would let me quit. As if he was reading my mind, Paul turned around, looked me in the eyes, and said: “We are not turning around.”

When the sun started to rise and I saw we weren’t close to the summit (although we were close, according to the mountain people), it started to feel impossible. My feet kept sliding, and Karl started grabbing my boots to place them onto more substantial surfaces, and I began catastrophizing that I would stab Ecuador’s favorite mountain hero with my rented crampons. For every step he took, I needed about six, because my foot slipped back with every movement. But there was nothing to do but keep moving forward. LP used her ice ax to help leverage my back [prosthetic] foot, so I had something to push off. Between her, Karl, and Paul, I was pushed, pulled, and dragged for what felt like an eternity to get to the top.

I couldn’t help but laugh at how hard it felt just to move. I almost didn’t recognize my own body or how it worked. I was even too exhausted to cry, and that surprised me. I had literally cried every day on that trip, because I was petrified with fear that I would let everyone around me down again. Now that I had reached the summit and achieved my goal, what struck me was that it isn’t the actual success that people support. It’s the effort. My success in reaching the summit depended on others, but the effort was 100 percent my own. I understood Pierre de Coubertin’s words—“The important thing is not to win, but to take part”—in a new way.

All my tears on this trip—and over my life—had been shed in frustration over trying to compensate for something that happened to me that was out of my control. But at the summit of Cotopaxi, it was as if all that weight disappeared. All I could see were blankets of bright, white rolling clouds and smiling faces. It felt infinite and peaceful. I returned to the thought that entered my head when Karl took my backpack: “It’s the way you carry the load the makes it heavy.” I had finally escaped the gravitational draw of painful events and unproductive beliefs. The struggle up the mountain illustrated how far I needed to go to break away from the things that pulled me down daily.

I joined ROMP’s climb to Cotopaxi to offer my experience as a professional athlete and an amputee. In sharing myself, I received more help than I could have ever imagined. ROMP uses the summit as a metaphor for overcoming life’s challenges, but nobody can get to the top of that mountain in solitude. When you get pushed down, someone else extends a hand to carry your bag and help pull you back up. And then we do the same thing for somebody else. We rise by lifting others.

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 where you need to be. Get in touch with us today at (888) 819-4721 to learn more about our prosthetic care. Join us! Find our Facebook community here.

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HORSEPLAY: Amputee Provides Inspiration, Help

The holidays are a happy and celebratory time for many, but if you’re dealing with new circumstances, such as limb loss, it can be daunting. Surround yourself with love and support – even via Zoom – and keep your spirits up. Here’s an inspiring story of an amputee who doesn’t let anything stop her.

Looking for some inspiration, positive energy, and respite from today’s pandemic-weary world?

Dana Lawson is a one-legged horse rider, who, despite living with a painful tumor under what she calls her “sit bone,” has a “can do” attitude and a contagious sense of humor. The latter two are what helped her endure a grueling 8-mile trip up the rocky, slippery and oftentimes steep trail to Olympic National Park’s Deer Lake and the bone-jarring journey back down.

Once completed, she cracked jokes about what it’s like to watch a one-legged person ride a horse over 8 miles of steep, rocky terrain with multiple river and bridge crossings.

Sense of humor

She jested that her beloved horse, Fivey, is really a mule — but don’t tell him that — and quipped about the joys of seeing her hop back in the saddle using nothing but the earth as her step-ladder after a lunch break.

After the ride, she felt a bit rummy, saying she “kinda felt like I did coming back from a long boat ride in rough seas; the kind where you just want to get off the boat and kiss the ground when you’ve finished.”

Along with that feeling comes a “great sense of accomplishment and pride … and that’s how I felt when it was over,” she said. “Done! Checked it off the bucket list and never need to do it again. Still, it was such an amazing experience.”

And she’s filled with gratitude for the friends who helped her get there: business partner Lindsay Leiendecker and especially Sherry and Larry Baysinger — and their “mule” Fivey — for giving her their time, energy and horses to help her.

Sherry was drawn to get to know Dana better more than a year ago when she and Larry packed in food and supplies for a Washington Trails Association work party on the Bogachiel River Trail.

Trail volunteer

“There she was, this one-legged volunteer who was walking down the steepest part of the trail with her walking sticks, soaking wet. And when (she) came up against a big log, she just crawled right across it,” Sherry said.

When Sherry asked what happened to her leg, Dana told her that she’d had it amputated 16 years ago.

“So then I asked her why doesn’t she wear a prosthesis, and she said it’s because she has a tumor in her pelvic region in the bone. And when she tried a prosthesis, it caused her so much pain she couldn’t tolerate it. But she does just fine using her special walking sticks. She’s amazing how well she can walk with them.”

Sherry offered to take her horseriding on a trail, so “she could just sit and relax while enjoying a trail,” and Dana jumped at the chance.

By the time they rode to Deer Lake, Dana said she had her sea legs, so to speak.

“I used to have a captain’s license and drive boats,” Dana said. “And it reminded me of driving big boats in the water in rough sea conditions when you just got to be one with the boat and just kinda roll with it and use your core to guide you. So I used that to figure out how to ride more comfortably.

“I do a lot of Pilates, which has helped me build up my core strength and definitely helped me learn to ride.”


Dana said she’s grateful to be around strong, caring women like Sherry. Her mom passed away from pancreatic cancer when she when 59, and her dad died in his early 70s from multiple myeloma.

“So I’ve been on my own, as far as parents go, for quite some time,” she said. “Which is why I appreciate being around such kind and down-to-earth people like Sherry and Larry.”

Cancer diagnosis

She was diagnosed with her own cancer in 1999 when she was 26. Now 47, she said living with cancer has come with its challenges, but along with that has come wisdom and gratitude for the gift of life.

When she faced having her leg amputated in 2007, she started looking for ways to keep doing what she loved without having to work for a corporation.

She’s a marine biologist who was living in Florida when she was diagnosed. There, she once owned a scuba shop and held a 50-ton captain’s license from the U.S. Coast Guard.

“I did all sorts of business to try to earn a living as a marine biologist,” she said. “I just knew that my medical journey was going to be hard, and it was going to be difficult to work a 9-to-5 job, Monday through Friday, so I got this crazy idea to start a nonprofit.”

The nonprofit would host day and overnight trips mostly at the beach as well as water-related activities designed to get students out of the classroom and teach science outdoors.

“We always did community service where we collected trash on the beach and did coastal cleanups and taught the kids how to be good humans and land stewards,” she said.

Her business was put on hold with the pandemic, and now she and Lindsay are transitioning to Washington state, where they plan to offer educational programs.

“As part of our change, we’re looking at developing trauma recovery programs, specifically with domestic abuse victims,” she said. “With COVID, there’s been a huge spike in domestic violence. Social services are overwhelmed. What we did with Nature’s Academy was to work as a complement or a supplement to existing social services, so that’s what we see ourselves doing here.”

For example, Healthy Families of Clallam County and other organizations are the first step for domestic abuse victims, helping them out of their situation and into shelters and getting them the support they need to break free.

“We would like to come next to begin the therapeutic portion,” Dana said.

She wants her program, called Unbounded Horizons, to help them unlearn the feeling of helplessness and aide them in regaining their self-empowerment.

“That’s always been what nature has been for me,” she said.

Whatever the case may be — veterans, domestic abuse, loss of a child or COVID-19 — trauma is something that’s quite ambiguous, and there isn’t a great nature or wilderness recovery program out there, Dana said.

“So that’s a niche we’re trying to fill,” she said.

“Dana so inspirational to me, and she just does not let all the trauma she’s dealt with — her cancer, living with that tumor and having her leg amputated — stop her from living her life,” Sherry said.

When Dana posted on Facebook in October that she’d just completed her 60th round of chemotherapy, Sherry suggested they celebrate with another trail ride, which Dana readily accepted.

She applauds — as do I — Dana and Lindsey putting together therapeutic wilderness and nature programs for trauma survivors.

“I’m convinced Larry’s work with horses and mules is the one thing that’s helped him keep his sanity after coming back from Vietnam,” Sherry said. “He feels like he has a mission in life, and that’s what Dana recognizes, too — that she needs to have a mission in life, that her life has meaning and purpose, that her identity in life is not going to be that she is an amputee.”

I think we all thrive when we feel our lives have a purpose, a meaning, and, above all, hope. Three important qualities that can be snatched away through ongoing domestic violence, trauma, and abuse.

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South Beach Prosthetics provides exceptional care and service. We’re here for you. Remember, we have a peer mentoring program so if you need some support or someone to talk to that’s been where you are, just reach out and let us know. Call us at 855.958.1777 to learn more. 

What You Should Know Before Getting a Prosthetic Leg

Prosthetic legs, or prostheses, can help people with leg amputations get around more easily. They mimic the function and, sometimes, even the appearance of a real leg. Some people still need a cane, walker or crutches to walk with a prosthetic leg, while others can walk freely.

If you have a lower limb amputation, or you will soon, a prosthetic leg is probably an option you’re thinking about. Amputee rehabilitation specialist Mary Keszler, M.D., shares a few considerations you should take into account first.

Not Everyone Benefits from a Prosthetic Leg

While many people with limb loss do well with their prosthetic legs, not everyone is a good candidate for a leg prosthesis. A few questions you may want to discuss with your doctor before opting for a prosthetic leg include:

  • Is there enough soft tissue to cushion the remaining bone?
  • How much pain are you in?
  • What is the condition of the skin on the limb?
  • How much range of motion does the residual limb have?
  • Is the other leg healthy?
  • What was your activity level before the amputation?
  • What are your mobility goals?

The type of amputation (above or below the knee) can also affect your decision. It’s generally easier to use a below-the-knee prosthetic leg than an above-the-knee prosthesis. “If the knee joint is intact, the prosthetic leg takes much less effort to move and allows for more mobility,” explains Keszler.

The reason behind the amputation is also a factor, as it may impact the health of the residual limb. Your physical health and lifestyle are also important to consider. If you were not very active and lost your leg due to peripheral vascular disease or diabetes, for example, you will struggle more with a prosthesis than someone who was extremely active but lost a limb in a car accident.

Prosthetic Leg

When it comes to amputation, each person is unique. The decision to move forward with a prosthesis should be a collaborative one between you and your doctor.

“To get the right type and fit, it’s important to work closely with your prosthetist — a relationship you might have for life.”

Mary Keszler, M.D.

Prosthetic Legs Are Not One Size Fits All

If your doctor prescribes a prosthetic leg, you might not know where to begin. It helps to understand how different parts of a prosthesis work together:

  • The prosthetic leg itself is made of lightweight yet durable materials. Depending on the location of the amputation, the leg may or may not feature functional knee and ankle joints.
  • The socket is a precise mold of your residual limb that fits snugly over the limb. It helps attach the prosthetic leg to your body.
  • The suspension system is how the prosthesis stays attached, whether through sleeve suction, vacuum suspension/suction or distal locking through pin or lanyard.

There are numerous options for each of the above components, each with their own pros and cons. “To get the right type and fit, it’s important to work closely with your prosthetist — a relationship you might have for life,” recommends Keszler.

A prosthetist is a health care professional who specializes in prosthetic limbs and can help you select the right components. You’ll have frequent appointments, especially in the beginning, so it’s important to feel comfortable with the prosthetist you choose.

Rehabilitation Is an Ongoing, Collaborative Process

Once you’ve selected your prosthetic leg components, you will need rehabilitation to strengthen your legs, arms and cardiovascular system, as you learn to walk with your new limb. You’ll work closely with rehabilitation physicians, physical therapists and occupational therapists to develop a rehabilitation plan based on your mobility goals. A big part of this plan is to keep your healthy leg in good shape. “Your healthy leg is worth its weight in gold,” emphasizes Keszler. “While prosthetic technology is always advancing, nothing can replicate a healthy leg.”

Getting Used to a Prosthetic Leg Isn’t Easy

Learning to get around with a prosthetic leg can be a challenge. Even after initial rehabilitation is over, you might experience some issues that your prosthetist and rehabilitation team can help you manage. Common obstacles include:

  • Excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis), which can affect the fit of the prosthesis and lead to skin issues.
  • Changing residual limb shape. This usually occurs in the first year after an amputation as the tissue settles into its more permanent shape, and may affect the fit of the socket.
  • Weakness in the residual limb, which may make it difficult to use the prosthesis for long periods of time.
  • Phantom limb pain could be intense enough to impact your ability to use the prosthesis.

A Note on Phantom Limb Pain

Phantom limb pain, or pain that seems to come from the amputated limb, is a very real problem that you may face after an amputation. “About 80% of people with amputations experience phantom limb pain that has no clear cause, although pain in the limb before amputation may be a risk factor,” says Keszler.

Prosthetic Leg

Mirror therapy, where you perform exercises with a mirror, may help with certain types of phantom limb pain. “Looking at yourself in the mirror simulates the presence of the amputated leg, tricking the brain into thinking it’s still there, stopping the pain,” explains Keszler.

In other cases, phantom limb pain might stem from another condition affecting the residual limb, such as sciatica or neuroma. Addressing these root causes can help eliminate the phantom pain.

Your Leg Prosthesis Needs May Change

At some point, you may notice that you aren’t as functional as you’d like to be with your current leg prosthesis. Maybe your residual limb has stabilized and you’re ready to transition from a temporary prosthesis that lasts a few months to one that can last three to five years. Or maybe you’ve “outwalked” your prosthesis by moving more or differently than the prosthesis is designed for. New pain, discomfort and lack of stability are some of the signs that it may be time to check in with your prosthetist to reevaluate your needs.

Your prosthetist might recommend adjusting your current equipment or replacing one of the components. Or you might get a prescription for a new prosthetic leg, which happens on average every three to five years. If you receive new components, it’s important to take the time to understand how they work. Physical therapy can help adjust to the new components or your new prosthetic leg.

Prosthetic Leg Technology Is Always Evolving

There are always new developments in prosthetic limb technology, such as microprocessor-driven and activity-specific components.

  • Microprocessor joints feature computer chips and sensors to provide a more natural gait. They may even have different modes for walking on flat surfaces or up and down the stairs.
  • There are also specialized prosthetic legs for different activities, such as running, showering or swimming, which you can switch to as needed. In some cases, your everyday prosthetic leg can be modified by your prosthetist to serve different purposes.
  • Osseointegration surgery is another option. This procedure involves the insertion of a metal implant directly into the bone, so there is no need for a socket. The prosthetic leg then attaches directly to that implant. While this procedure is not right for everyone and is still under study, it can provide improved range of motion and sensory perception.

It’s important to remember that you’re not alone in navigating the many different prosthetic leg options. Your care team will help you weigh the pros and cons of each and decide on the ideal prosthetic leg that matches your lifestyle.

When you come to South Beach Prosthetics, you’re not alone in navigating the many different prosthetic leg options. Your team here will help you weigh the pros and cons of each and decide on the ideal prosthetic leg that matches your lifestyle. There are a LOT of questions you must have — so please connect with us and let’s get them answered! We will work with you to get you back on track and living your best life. We even offer our patients free transportation to see us – and your doctors and rehab appointments.    

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Coping with Amputation, Emotionally and Physically

Amputation, whether it’s a limb or a toe, can be a difficult and traumatic experience. And everyone copes differently.

It’s normal for you to feel a range of emotions from relief (if you were suffering from constant pain before the amputation) to grief, anger, and even depression.

You also will need to adjust physically. You’ll need to relearn how to do many everyday tasks. If you have a prosthetic limb, you will need to learn how to use it and care for it.

Rehabilitation focuses on helping both mentally and physically.

Coping After Amputation: Adjusting to a New Life

Having a limb amputated means being dependent on others for help, at least for a time.

As you recover and go through rehabilitation, you will steadily regain more independence and learn how to do basic daily activities in a new way. Although it may be difficult to ask for help, you’ll need it at first. It’s important to learn to accept help when offered.

“The rehabilitation part is so critical early because people haven’t thought about walking since they were toddlers,” says Michael Munin, MD, professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “Often as adults they’re now having to re-learn how to walk from start.”

Needing help can make you feel like you’ve lost some control of your life. Recognize what you can do for yourself and let others know when you do and do not need help.

Emotional struggles are normal. Realize that you don’t have to deal with them alone. Talk with family and friends, a counselor, or support group about your feelings. Finding others who have gone through a similar experience may help you realize what’s possible. Spiritual support may also help you, whether from church leaders or members, or just taking your own time to reflect.

“There is an emotional side of losing a body part, and we try to emphasize the positive of restoring physical functioning,” Dr. Munin says.

Life After Amputation: Recovering Physically

Rehabilitation starts while you’re still in the hospital and can last weeks or even months after the amputation surgery.

Depending on your needs, a rehabilitation program will help you re-learn how to dress, walk, and eat, as well as balance and coordination, how to care for your skin around the amputation, and how to adjust to a prosthesis.

Rehabilitation can include occupational and physical therapy. Prosthetists also hold an important role during the rehab admission process. They fabricate the prosthetic limb and make adjustments as needed to maintain patient comfort with the device.

Dr. Munin says learning to trust a new limb is an important part of the early rehabilitation process. For example, someone might not feel comfortable putting full weight on a prosthetic leg.

“We try to master that skill first, and then we focus on technique,” he says.

  • Physical therapists will help you take care of your skin, manage swelling, and deal with phantom pain. In physical therapy, you will also learn how to care for your prosthesis and how to put it on and take it off. You’ll also learn stretching and strengthening exercises, as well as gait training to help you stand even and regain balance. Therapists also will work on your cardiovascular endurance.
  • Occupational therapy will help you regain independence by helping you master activities of daily living. These include basic household chores, bathing, getting dressed, and toilet and tub transfers. Your occupational therapist will also recommend and show you how to use any assistive equipment that will make life at home easier. The therapist will also provide you any environmental modifications you need at home, at work, or for driving.

The occupational and physical therapy tie in together to help a patient recover.

“Ideally, the goal is that a patient would ultimately, when they finish all of their training, that they’ll put the leg on in the morning, take it off in the evening, and have a full day of wear schedule,” Dr. Munin says. “All of these facets have to be addressed to achieve the high outcomes that we hopefully obtain for our patients.”

Going out for the first time after an amputation can be intimidating. It helps to practice things you’ll encounter before going out so you feel more confident. Either at home or in a rehab program, you can practice navigating curbs, stairs, ramps, and uneven ground.

As you continue working, you will begin to regain some normalcy and feel more confident about your abilities. In time, it helps to focus on what you can do, rather than what you’re unable to do.

“We try to put the potential goals in their view so they realize they have a lot to shoot for and aim for in terms of restoration and function,” Dr. Munin says. “We can’t get everything back, but we can really restore a lot of function if the prosthetic rehabilitation is done in a concentrated, coordinated fashion.”

Mental Health After Amputation

Dr. Munin says doctors, nurses, and staff also monitor a patient’s mental health after an amputation. They treat it on a case-to-case basis, evaluating factors like a patient’s mental history, support system, and more.

Sometimes new problems can happen: depression, suicidal thoughts, body image issues, and post-traumatic stress. In serious cases, doctors can seek a psychiatric consult.

“It is certainly something we monitor closely for,” Dr. Munin says.

If you feel signs of depression, such as lack of motivation, loss of interest in things you once cared about, and ongoing grief or sadness, talk to your therapist or a counselor. The earlier you get help, the sooner you’ll feel better and can continue recovering.


Household Tips and Tricks For Leg Amputees

Becoming an Amputee

If you or a loved one has had to go through a leg amputation, you know losing a limb is far from easy. I personally was diagnosed with sarcoma which is a rare cancer without a cure. I went through remission for three years thinking I might not have to deal with cancer for a second time, but unfortunately the second time it came back more aggressively than the first. The best option at a cancer-free life was to amputate my right foot. If you’re living life with cancer, or are having to get a leg amputated, just remember that things will get better and easier over time. Stay positive knowing that you will eventually be back to all of the things you loved to do before. Whether you lost a limb to cancer, trauma, or other means, knowing some shortcuts around the household to help you live as an amputee can be helpful.

Follow Up Amputee Care

Follow up amputee care isn’t talked about much, but it’s an essential and vital part of not only your happiness, but health and recovery. Being a cancer survivor and an amputee woman, I wanted to provide some insider information for those of you who are wanting to explore some good shortcuts around the house as an amputee. Here are some tips and tricks as well as some items I purchased that helped tremendously, and you can visit our page here to purchase these items in support of the Move For Jenn mission:


  1. Suction Shower Handle

    Installing a suction shower handle in your shower is a lifesaver. You can easily move them around to where you need the support, just keep in mind that you need to make sure they’re secured properly, otherwise they could be a potential fall hazard. I personally have two of them, one for each shower wall, and then use the shower door handle as well. I recommend ordering an extra for traveling purposes.

  2. Shower Floor Grip

    Reduce shower fall risks by purchasing a shower floor grip. They improve traction in the shower, are easy to install, and are an inexpensive way to provide extra safety. The best part is, you barely notice them once they’re installed!

  3. Shower Chair

    One word of advice here – functionality over aesthetics. I was adamant about having a nice wooden shower chair for a more spa-like feel vs. the plastic medical looking ones. I quickly realized that the wooden ones are a lot more work than plastic ones. Spraying down the plastic chairs are much easier!

  4. Hands Free Knee Crutch

    After your healing is done, I highly advise investing in the iWALK2.0 hands free crutch which is more convenient than conventional crutches. It’s a great tool that allows you to walk around without your prosthetic on and allows you to navigate stairs hands-free.

  5. Grip Socks

    Non-slip grip socks create a slip-free surface while you move around and they’re super comfortable! I like them because they help me feel grounded and stable while walking.

  6. Crutches And Walkers

    Walking aids such as crutches and walkers serve as a must, especially if you’re like me – a single leg amputee. They provide efficient means of transportation, and having one for travel is highly recommended. This is the portable walker that I have, and love it. The walker is crucial for getting in and out of the shower. If you have a two story house, I’ve found that having a set of crutches and a walker on both floors is helpful.

  7. Medication Chart

    After surgery, in order to stay ahead of the pain, make a medication chart that indicates what medicines you are taking and what time to take them. This helps not only you stay on schedule, but family members who help out as well. Another helpful tip is to set timers for the middle of the night, and DO NOT sleep through them or forget to take your medication. The pain is not worth the extra sleep you’d get if you slept through the alarm.

  8. Gel Ice Packs

    Having multiple (4-6) gel ice packs are a must in my opinion. I personally love the knee version with velcro, and have found that it helps with limb and nerve pain. Healthcare professionals recommended 20 minutes on, and 20 minutes off.

  9. Handheld Massager

    Handheld massagers, and massaging and desensitizing are important. I was always told this is essential, and boy were they right. It helps with nerve pain and helps prep your leg for your prosthetic. Have someone massage your limb for as much as you can tolerate.

  10. Ampushield

    Ampushield is a hardshell cover that protects your limb. If the doctors office doesn’t provide you one, make sure to ask for it as this is an absolute must have. I wore it everywhere I went. Ampushield protected me when I had a bad fall with my crutches on concrete shortly after my surgery. The protective layer truly saved me from some serious damage, and I’m so grateful I was wearing it that day. I also found that you can place gel ice packs inside.


Life After Leg Amputation

Years ago my life took a turn when I received the news about my sarcoma cancer. Fast forward to today, and I can’t stress enough how important it is to be active in your follow up care after an amputation. I went from a cancer patient to a cancer survivor which has been a life changing experience. Amputees should have a plan of care outlined to be able to cope with the loss of their limb and their ability to prepare for life with a prosthesis. I hope you find these tips and tricks helpful, and I wish you the best on your journey.


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