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Arm Prosthesis: 5 Common Questions Answered

Updated: Feb 14, 2023

Image of a human arm shaking hands with an artificial limb

Way before we developed our eyesight, we fed our curiosities about the big, wide world through reaching out, touching, and feeling. As we grew up, our arms remained the most loyal of friends. We rely on them to feed us, carry our bags, and get our message across to others.

However, not everyone has full access to all of that functionality. Some people are born with congenital upper limb differences, and some lose all or part of their arm through amputation, for example. Following surgical removal or as a way to work around limitations of a limb difference, many people turn to an arm prosthesis as a way to restore or retain functionality. But how do all these daily activities change when a prosthetic medical device replaces the function of a human arm? Do they even change at all??

We want to shed some light on some of the most popular questions people have about life with an artificial limb, so in this article the ExpHand team will explore some common questions about life with an arm prosthesis, and explore whether daily activities change when a prosthetic medical device replaces the function of a human arm, and if they do, how.

Arm Prosthesis Question 1: "Can people with a prosthetic arm feel?"

Not really. Biomedical engineers around the world are busy working on a prosthetic arm that transfers feeling back into the body. Mind-controlled devices, for instance, allow their owners not only to grip objects but to feel the sensation of touching them.

However, these revolutionary prostheses are still in the development stage. This means that an artificial prosthesis, which enables the transfer of feeling, is yet to enter the market.

Arm Prosthesis Question 2: How do I shake hands with someone who has a prosthetic arm or hand?

A common assumption about people with limb differences is that they do things differently from the rest. While this is not always true, strangers are still left wondering how to interact with prosthetic devices.

When shaking hands with a person who wears an arm prosthesis, you should act naturally and let them start the process. Remember that you are not the first one they have shaken hands with, so they anticipated your confusion way before you did. An important aspect is to control your facial expression as your hesitancy or confusion might accidentally offend your friend.

Another approach is to respectfully admit that you don't know how to proceed and ask for their preference. Being polite goes a long way in such situations and can save a friendly gesture from turning awkward.

Also, don't forget to check out this post on upper limb difference terminology for more information and useful terminology, so that you are never at a loss of words when talking about limb differences.

Arm Prosthesis Question 3: Do people with prosthetic arms gesticulate?

Moving our hands makes up an important part of our body language in everyday communication. When a message is supported by hand movement or specific gestures, it automatically sounds stronger and more meaningful. But do people with prosthetic arms gesticulate just as much?

A recent study found that the likelihood of someone relying on prosthetic arms for self-expression depends on how much the device is used to carry out daily chores. Therefore, participants with two artificial limbs gesticulated with both devices equally. One-handers, however, moved their human arm more than their prosthesis when they talked to others.

Arm Prosthesis Question 4: Do people with prosthetic arms wash their hands?

Of course! The prosthesis is exposed to the same bacteria as the rest of the body, which is why it is important to clean it regularly. 3D-printed prostheses, like the ExpHand, are water-resistant however, we do not recommend showering with them on. There is no need to remove the device when washing hands, though!

Depending on the type of prosthesis, there are different cleaning methods that you should follow. For best practice, read the cleaning instructions that came with your device.

Arm Prosthesis Question 5: Do people with prosthetic arms have one dominant hand?

The short answer is 'yes'. The long answer is that it depends on several factors. The number of artificial limbs they wear, the level of accommodation with the prostheses, and individual preferences all play a role.

As the prosthetic device has some functional limitations, unilateral amputees are likely to use their human hand as their dominant hand. In the rare case of bilateral upper limb loss, people determine their dominant hand during the rehabilitation process. Once they regain control over their bodies, natural instincts should make the decision a lot easier.

More Posts From The ExpHand Blog

We hope that you've found this piece informative and educational - and for more insights into life with an arm prosthesis or an upper limb difference, as well as inspirational stories and news from the limb different community, you should make the ExpHand blog your go-to resource. Why not get started with the three posts below?

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