Falls Advice when Using Prosthetic Limbs

As an amputee, you are at risk of falling, both when wearing your prosthesis and when you are not. This booklet aims to advise you on how to prevent falls around the home, and how to manage if you do fall.

There may be other factors which put you more at risk of falling, for instance:

  • Other medical problems such as arthritis, stroke or heart problems
  • Experiencing light-headedness, dizzy spells or low blood pressure
  • Poor eyesight
  • Taking regular medication, or more than 4 different prescribed drugs
  • Problems with sleeping
  • Poor diet
  • Alcohol intake
  • Living alone

If you are concerned about any of the above, see your doctor. You can also ask your doctor to review your prescribed medication regularly. Try to have regular eyesight tests with an optician; eye tests are free if you are over 60.

Preventing Falls At Home

Here is some general advice about how you can stay safe around the home.

If you do fall

First, carry out a top to toe check, and ask yourself:

  • Does anything hurt?
  • Can I move?

If you decide you should stay down follow these steps as appropriate: 

Attract attention

  1. Use your phone to call for help
  2. Use your pendant alarm
  3. Shout or bang something

Keep Warm

  1. Cover yourself with clothing, a towel, a tablecloth, a rug or a blanket. 

Get Comfortable

  1. Find a cushion or pillow nearby or roll up an item of clothing and place it under your head.

Keep Moving

  1. You need to keep changing position to avoid pressure sores
  2. Move your joints around to avoid stiffness and help circulation.
  3. Roll away from any damp areas. 

If you decide you can get up follow these steps as appropriate: 

Getting up from the floor

Your physiotherapist will teach you this as part of your walking training.

Here we describe two ways of getting up – on your hands and knees and by lifting yourself backwards, and you will have been taught the best way for you, depending on your level of amputation, and the strength in your arms.

  • Before getting up, try and stay calm, and do not rush.
  • If you are lying awkwardly, try and move so that you are lying on your back with your legs out straight.
  • If any movement is too painful, STOP.
  • If you are in any pain, or doubt about moving and getting up, then follow the advice for ‘I should stay down’, and regularly perform your top to toe check.
  • During your fall your walking aids may have landed away from you. You may need to move across the floor on your bottom to retrieve them before getting up.

Getting up on your hands and knees

Check that you are able to get up, that you have no pain and that you can move your arms and legs normally. Move yourself close to an item of furniture which you can use to help you up. This may be your wheelchair (ensure the brakes are on) or an armchair.

Man with prosthetic leg using arms to raise himself

Roll onto your side. Push yourself onto one
hip and bend your knees.

Man on side with knee bent raising himself up with arms

Push yourself up onto your hands and knees into a crawling position. If your amputation was above the knee, you can still use this
method by kneeling through the prosthetic knee. If you need to roll over to get into this
position it is best to go towards your sound leg so as not to ‘trap’ your prosthetic leg
beneath you.

Man on hands and knees

Hold onto your wheelchair or armchair.

Man with arms resting on wheelchair seat (brakes on)

Facing the chair lift your sound leg and place
the foot flat on the floor.

Holding on to the chair, and putting foot of remaining leg on the floor

Push up through your arms and your leg
to lift yourself into a standing position.

Man pushing on the arms of the wheelchair to help get into a standing position

Turn yourself to sit on the chair.

Man sitting back in chair

Getting up by lifting yourself backwards

Check that you are able to get up, that you have no pain and that you can move your arms and legs normally. Move yourself close to an item of furniture which you can use to help you up. This may be your wheelchair (ensure the brakes are on) or an armchair.If you are using your wheelchair, take out the cushion, this will lower the height of the seat.

Man sitting on floor moving back towards chair

Taking off the arms of the wheelchair will also make holding the seat easier as you get up. Turn yourself so that your back is to the chair. You should sit about 5-6 inches in front of the chair.

Man leaning with back against wheelchair, leg bent at knee and prosthetic leg straight out

Reach your hands behind you to hold the seat of the chair firmly. Bend your soundleg to firmly place your foot on the floor.

Man with back to wheelchair and hands on seat pulling himself up

Push through your arms and your sound leg to lift yourself up onto the seat.

Man lowering himself back into chair

If the seat is too high, you may need to break the lift into two by using cushions from your settee. The method is then exactly the same.

Man sitting on cushions to help raise himself, while lifting himself onto chair

Whichever way you use to get up from the floor make sure that you rest and check yourself over again before you try to move. Your prosthesis may have twisted or loosened during the fall, and you may need to take it off and re-adjust it. You will also be shaken and shocked from the fall, so take your time before you try to get up again. Always make sure that you tell somebody about your fall, and monitor yourself for any increase in pain or if you begin to feel unwell.

Always tell your GP or a health professional about your fall. If you have had 2 or more falls in the last 12 months and feel your ability to safely use your prosthesis has deteriorated, please inform a member of staff at the Centre. The team at the Centre can then assess you to help reduce the risk of you falling.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the information above then please get in touch with the team at the Artificial Limb and Appliance Centre.

Artificial Limb and Appliance Centre (ALAC)
Rookwood Hospital
Fairwater Road
Llandaff
Cardiff
CF5 2YN

Reception / Appointments : 029 2031 3930
Physiotherapy Department: 029 2031 3921

Find out more on the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board website.

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