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Prosthetic Arm Types: Finding the Right Fit

Arm prosthetics play a crucial role in improving the quality of life for people with upper limb differences, helping them regain functionality and independence. Here we aim to provide a comprehensive overview of different prosthetic arm types, and offer some guidance down the path of choosing the right one for you.


Finding the Right Fit for You

When it comes to prosthetic arm types, there are various options available to cater to the diverse needs of individuals who require them. The need for a prosthetic might arise due to injury, amputation, or congenital limb difference. No matter the reason, finding the right prosthetic can significantly improve a person's quality of life and help them regain their independence.


It's essential to explore the different prosthetic arm types to find the best fit for your unique situation. Prosthetics can offer several benefits, including improved functionality, increased mobility, and enhanced psychological well-being. They can also help individuals return to their daily activities and hobbies, making it crucial to consult a specialist prosthetist for personalised advice.


Body-Powered Prosthetics

A body-powered prosthetic is a type of arm prosthetic that uses the movement of other body parts, like the shoulders or opposite arm, to control the prosthetic. There are two main types of body-powered prosthetics: voluntary opening and voluntary closing.

In voluntary opening prosthetics, the user applies force to open the prosthetic hand or hook, and a spring or elastic band closes it. These prosthetic arm types are relatively easy to control and maintain. Voluntary closing prosthetics work in the opposite way, with the user applying force to close the hand or hook. This type of prosthetic allows for better grip strength but can be more difficult to control.


Body-powered prosthetics are typically more affordable and durable than other types of prosthetics. However, they may be less precise and require more energy and effort to operate.


Myoelectric Prosthetics

Myoelectric prosthetics use electrical signals generated by the user's muscles to control the prosthetic arm. These prosthetics have several components, including electrodes, motors, and batteries.


Electrodes are placed on the surface of the user's skin to detect muscle activity. These signals are then sent to a controller that interprets the information and sends commands to the motors. These motors are responsible for moving the prosthetic hand or arm, allowing for a more natural and precise movement - though you must be patient, as there is certainly a learning curve to using them. Batteries power the motors and other electronic components of the myoelectric prosthetic.


Myoelectric prosthetics offer a more natural appearance and movement than body-powered prosthetics, as well as better precision and control. However, they are generally more expensive and require regular maintenance and battery charging.


3D-Printed Prosthetics

3D-printed prosthetics are created using 3D printing technology, allowing for greater customisation and personalisation. This type of prosthetic can be tailored to the user's specific needs, including size, shape, and functionality.


3D-printed prosthetics are often more affordable than traditional prosthetic arm types, and they can be easily updated or replaced as the user's needs change. The development of innovative designs, such as the ExpHand, has further expanded the possibilities for 3D-printed prosthetics.


Cosmetic Prosthetics

Cosmetic prosthetics are designed primarily for aesthetic purposes, rather than functionality. These prosthetics aim to replicate the appearance of a natural arm and hand, using materials like silicone or PVC.


Cosmetic prosthetics can be customised to match the user's skin tone, hair colour, and other features, providing a more natural appearance. While cosmetic prosthetics can improve the user's self-confidence and appearance, these prosthetic arm types may not offer the same level of functionality as other types of prosthetics.


Choosing the Right Prosthetic

Prosthetic arm types have evolved significantly over recent years, providing individuals with limb differences with an ever widening variety of prosthetic options. Here we will discuss the factors to consider when selecting the right prosthetic, including the type of limb difference, lifestyle and activities, cost, and potential insurance coverage.


Understanding Your Limb Difference

The first step in exploring prosthetic arm types is to understand the nature of your limb difference. The type of prosthetic that will work best for you could depend on the level of your amputation or congenital limb difference. For example, individuals with a below-elbow (transradial) limb difference may require a different prosthetic than those with an above-elbow (transhumeral) limb difference. Identifying your specific needs will help narrow down the options available to you and ensure you find the most suitable prosthetic for your unique situation.


Matching Your Lifestyle and Activities

Another critical factor to consider when choosing prosthetic arm types is your lifestyle and the activities you engage in daily. There are a variety of prosthetics designed to cater to specific needs and activities, such as sports or heavy manual labour. Additionally, some prosthetics are better suited for individuals with more sedentary lifestyles. It's essential to discuss your daily routines, hobbies, and occupational requirements with your prosthetist to ensure that you select a prosthetic that will support your lifestyle and enable you to continue doing the things you enjoy.


For example, body-powered prosthetic arms are an excellent choice for those who engage in manual labour or perform physically demanding tasks. These prosthetic arm types rely on the user's body movement and strength to operate, providing a robust and durable solution. The cable and harness system in body-powered arms allows individuals to grasp and lift heavier objects than some other types of prosthetics. This combined with the lack of reliance on battery power makes them well-suited for labour-intensive jobs and rugged environments.


Alternatively, myoelectric prosthetic arms offer a higher level of precision and control, making them ideal for tasks that require fine motor skills. These advanced arm prosthetics utilise electrical signals generated by the user's muscles to control the movement of the artificial limb. As a result, myoelectric arms are perfect for individuals who need to perform intricate tasks, such as typing, painting, or playing musical instruments.


Considering Cost and Potential Insurance Coverage

When exploring prosthetic arm types, cost is often a significant factor to consider. Prosthetic devices can range in price from hundreds to thousands of dollars, depending on their complexity and the materials used. It's essential to research potential insurance coverage and determine whether your insurance provider will cover the cost of a prosthetic device. In the UK, the National Health Service (NHS) may provide funding for prosthetics, which can help alleviate some of the financial burden. Be sure to consult with your prosthetist and explore all available options to ensure that you find a prosthetic that suits both your needs and your budget.


Consulting with a Prosthetist and Exploring NHS Options

Finally, when selecting prosthetic arm types, it's crucial to consult with a qualified prosthetist who can guide you through the process of finding the best prosthetic for your needs. A prosthetist can assess your limb difference, discuss your lifestyle and activities, and recommend prosthetic options that will work best for you. They will also be able to provide you with information about potential NHS prosthetic availability and help you navigate the application process. By working closely with a prosthetist, you can ensure that you make an informed decision and select a prosthetic that will enhance your quality of life.


In summary, there are several prosthetic arm types available, each with its benefits and drawbacks. By understanding the different options and considering factors such as lifestyle, activities, and cost, individuals can find the prosthetic that best suits their needs.


If you think the ExpHand would be the right fit for your child, please get in contact with us today or click here to sign up to our beta trial.

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