Exercise and keeping your body active is important even if you have endured the amputation of a limb. Amputations of a part of the leg or foot may be necessary due to peripheral vascular disease and diabetes, which hinders blood flow to the lower limbs, causing part of the tissue to die or become necrotic. Other reasons for an amputation include an accident or injury that severely damages the leg. You will require physiotherapy after your surgery to learn how to exercise the affected leg and become mobile again with the help of a prosthetic limb or wheelchair. Even if you cannot walk, it is important to exercise your sound leg to maintain healthy circulation and prevent blood clots. Your doctor will advise how soon after surgery you can begin an exercises. Once you have been given the go-ahead, try these exercises.
Range of Motion
Lie flat on your back on an exercise mat with your arms at your sides. Keep your hands palms down on the mat for support. Use a pillow to support your amputated leg if that is more comfortable.
Slowly lift your unaffected leg off the mat as high as possible. Keep your amputated limb motionless. Hold your leg in the air for a count of three to five, while keeping your toes pointing straight ahead and stretching your leg as much as possible.
Move your leg in a circular motion in the air. Bring your leg back down on the mat and relax. Raise your leg again and move it from side to side five to 10 times.
Return to the starting position and rest before repeating the entire exercise, completing 10 to 12 repetitions. This exercise helps to relieve leg cramping that may occur from sitting or being in a wheelchair for long periods of time. It also improves circulation and leg flexibility.
Sit up straight in your wheelchair or a sturdy chair. Loop the elastic exercise band around your toe and grip the handles tightly in each hand.
Raise your leg so that it is extended straight out in front of you. Bend your leg at the knee to bring it as close to you as possible. Pull back on the exercise band handles by bending your elbows and bringing your hands close to your chest. You may need to lean back slightly.
Remain in this position and extend your leg out straight again. The resistance from the exercise band should make this difficult and work out the muscles in your leg. Hold this position for a count of three to five. Relax, lower your leg and continue the exercise 10 to 15 times.
Stand up straight and hold the back of a heavy chair or a table with both hands for support. If you wear a prosthetic leg, remove it so that the weight of your body rests on your sound leg.
Let go of the table or chair and spread your arms out to balance the weight of your body on your leg. Maintain this position for a count of 10 or more.
Hold the table or chair again and relax before doing the exercise five to 10 more times. You can also hold a broomstick straight in front of you in both hands to help you balance.
Individuals who are wheelchair-bound due to a broken leg or ankle can also do these exercises. Have someone stand behind you, if you are afraid of standing on one foot. It is important to wear a supportive athletic shoe on your sound foot to prevent injury or strain to the ankle and knee.
Ask your physiotherapist to show you how to correctly perform each exercise to avoid injuring yourself. Ensure that the elastic exercise band is correctly held in place around your foot to make sure it doesn't recoil against you. Have someone assist you with exercises to help prevent falls and injury. If you experience pain in your amputated leg or anywhere else in your body while exercising, consult your physiotherapist before continuing.
"Senior Step"; Keep Moving: Exercises for People with Lower-extremity Amputations; Melissa Wolff-Burke, Ed.D., P.T., and Elizabeth Cole, P.T.; 2004
Sportsinjuryclinic.net: Resistance Band Exercises
National Center on Physical Activity and Disability; Epidemiology and Pathophysiology of Amputation; Ken Pitetti, Ph.D.
About this Author
Noreen Kassem is a hospital doctor and a medical writer. Her articles have been featured in "Women's Health," "Nutrition News," "Check Up" and "Alive Magazine." Kassem also covers travel, books, fitness, nutrition, cooking and green living.
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Article reviewed by John Hagemann | Last updated on: 09/05/11