Arm stump

Cite this article:
Wolf Schweitzer: Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - Arm stump; published October 5, 2008, 16:17; URL: https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=150.

BibTeX: @MISC{schweitzer_wolf_1574130809, author = {Wolf Schweitzer}, title = {{Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - Arm stump}}, month = {October},year = {2008}, url = {https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=150}}


Of course it is an important subject. Of course it is that one item/part/region that some people stare at all the time. The arm stump, the defunct arm, the residual limb, the disabled arm, the disability. I may cover it up, wear stump warmers or attempt to wear even an artistic prosthesis - but it still is undeniably there, the uneasiness that a covered stump creates is at times palpable, and some even asked me to unpack it so they could take a closer look.

As Cloerkes so adequately puts it, people will be nervous, disturbed and distressed if confronted with visible disability - only if they can peek without me looking, only if they can approach this slowly and at their own pace may they eventually develop an understanding and feel less tense. If at all.

At the same time, other non-disabled people talking about it, asking me directly: that is considered taboo - which does not necessarily help some people that must satisfy their greedy curiosity. But it puts me at ease because talking about it also gets really boring and strenuous after a while. In some instances and after a while I did wonder, whether there are any other subjects to talk about. And when I get bored in such a way, black humor slips in which does not make it easier for other people either.

So as the disabled person is the one in charge of handling their communication (not the general public and certainly not that one intruding person that believes they are here to save me from whatever), I am to acknowledge that sheer voyeurism - which brings also people such as you here - has an alleged role in getting people in the 'general public' to relax. On the other hand, it is my exclusive right to keep information to myself.

I feel as if we - as a general public, as society - are on one side entirely hysterical about disability - people commit suicide, run ape shit, forget their medical duties regarding clear legal rights of the patient, grossly misbehave - and on the other side, we are completely frozen, shut up, missing perceptible dialog of any normal dimensions for the most part. If a disabled person comments their subject, a 'circus performance' is assumed and non-disabled people will listen, clap their hands, go home and shake their heads. If a non-disabled person dares to comment, it will almost automatically lack authenticity and depth. So we are already living in a somewhat segregated society, one that has an inside world and an outside world, one that - as example - has three members of the general public stare at me for enough time until I walk up to them, threaten them with physical violence, upon which they do not apologize but remain silent and leave the premises. This is a world that often lacks ideas necessary to generate words necessary to generate a normal dialog. This is a world that leads you, one of the many mute visitors, here.

Amelotatism and other projections

Zunächst auf Deutsch, für alle, die sich hierher verirren, ohne zu wissen was da mit ihnen selbst los ist: die Chancen sind extrem hoch, dass Sie hierher gekommen sind, um sich meinen kaputten Arm anzuglotzen. Also um das zu tun, was man sonst als gaffen oder starren bezeichnen würde. Das ist insofern OK, als sich dafür eine Webseite in geradezu hervorragender Weise eignet - also, besser hier glotzen, als echte Leute damit ärgern. Damit müssen Sie allerdings auch zur Kenntnis nehmen, dass normale Menschen sowas nicht tun, also, kaputte Arme anstarren. Um sowas besonders gut zu finden, muss man wohl auf eine eigentümliche Art besonders gewickelt sein. Dafür können Sie vielleicht nichts - aber wenn eines fest steht, dann, dass es nicht mein Problem ist, sondern Ihres. Machen Sie sich nichts draus, das ist hier wie bei vielen Leuten, die öfters angestarrt werden, mehr als zu Genüge bekannt [DEUTSCHE VERSION].

Nine times out of ten you came here to do some staring. That's alright, I rather you stare here than in real life. But just so we talked about it, well, chances are high you came here because there is something wrong with you. Don't worry, I know [ENGLISH VERSION]. That does not mean that I blindly approve. But, I know.

How does it look

The arm ends 6 cm behind the wrist. This is a long below elbow amputation stump of the right arm. The end is somewhat asymmetrically rounded. The scar unites inside and outside skin that was cut as fish mouth flaps. The skin is sensitive and due to wearing a prosthesis requires a certain amount of skin care.

If you are interested in its shape, look at the 3D shape (STL, VRML using Blender or any other software of your choice).

What is inside

Both radius and ulna are cut almost at the same level with the ulna slightly shorter. There are three major nerve stumps some 2 - 3 cm behind the end. These are tender and hurt if I bang the arm. Other than that, there are some muscle packs that I can contract and use to generate signals with. There is less bone and less muscle than on the left arm.

How does it feel

There is an almost constant phantom sensation and occasional phantom pain. This is neither particularly distracting or an impediment to sleep though. There are triggers that make it worse, and there are triggers that make it better. The stump is not cool to be squeezed or banged, it is good to be careful with it.

Cold feeling, red or blue discoloration, congestion

My body may be hot and I sweat yet my arm stump has a distinct cold feeling and pain while sweating too. My body may be very comfortably adapted to the temperature but my arm stump is clearly cooler or cold, it is painful, I have stump pain, maybe also phantom pains. What is that?

I found this most likely to be due to congestion and that is due to limited tissue fluid circulation. For long arm stumps such as mine this is a known issue. In a normal arm, constant hand motion moves the forearm muscles which then milk the tissue fluid back up the lymphatic vessels. With no hand, no milking effect occurs, tissue water accumulates in the stump and congestion of the tissue ensues.

Even when I just want to warm the stump by wearing a woolen sock, a cotton sock or by running hot water over it, neither the coldness nor the pains are remedied. It may even make it worse.

What always helped me was to compress the stump as a first thing to do. I wear a compression sock made from the same fabric used to do compressive leg socks for people with leg edema. Alternatively, I use an elastic bandage that I wrap extremely tightly around the stump - it is better than a compression sock when the pain is extreme as I can apply a lot more force to the bandage. And only afterwards - if at all necessary - I wear a warm sock over that. Also I could hold the stump in an elevated position, that would help decongest the arm stump too - but that is often not so practical. Imagine sitting in a cinema and your arm stump stuck up. Not a good idea.

Wearing a moderately small silicone liner for my prosthesis also applies constant compression on my stump. That is why for me, wearing my prosthetic arm with a narrow liner and a well fitted socket amounts to protection from bangs (which otherwise hurt me a lot) and to protection from too much tissue congestion.

Is it useful

Its length is useful to carry items, to operate switches, to type, to fix dishes when washing them, to hang clothes, or to hold items against a surface such as when tying shoes. The skin surface is useful as I feel with it, as it is not as slippery as the prosthetic surface. It's shape is very useful as it provides for fitting a prosthesis. If I use the stump for medium heavy work I protect it with a sock or wear the prosthesis for really heavy work - which is why I cannot understand why prosthetic arm manufacturers specifically label their prosthetic parts as 'not for heavy usage'. What did type of situations do they believe they were meant to cover? Hold up my hook as ornamentation in a tea room? And if they do not provide wiggle free heavy duty prosthetics, who did they believe would provide these parts then?

And I use it for typing as well as for a bunch of other stuff. And a whole lot of more stuff. In short, the stump itself is very useful.

I also play Neverball - and to not forget too much about using the disabled arm I use that as well as the left hand (which I do for the most part).

The iPhone is a bitch to use one-handedly.

Using an integrated trackpad / Cherry keyboard:


I generally look after myself - particularly after back and shoulders to prevent strain and overuse. I also use some special grip patterns for my left (remaining) hand to avoid elbow and carpal tunnel overuse. For general well being, I periodically like a bit of a swim [check this].

Social aspects

One aspect of walking around as if nothing were wrong is that it has to be cemented into peoples' brains that any such damage is contained. And that disability is a visible fact of everyday life. It could be you tomorrow.


Other views on the subject of arm amputee or hand amputee and dealing with public appearance:

Working past the handicap with using a prosthetic arm

If you are interested in more work related and difficult work applications, comparing body powered and myoelectric arm technology, here is an informative summary [link]

5 Replies to “Arm stump”

  1. Your site is excellent. Your comments are unvarnished and very on-point. It is a terrific asset to any BE amputee.

  2. Ok, so I was born with limb bud insult and I am missing my right hand and forearm. Everyone stares at me everywhere I go no matter what I am doing. People I go to school with stare at when I walk by them in the hallway, it's been this way since I was born. In exactly two weeks I'm turning 13, and I've noticed the younger you are the more people stare at you. It's hard not being able to do what everyone else around you can do, and must be even harder for you cuz at one point you could do that too. But you learn to appreciate things more when you are missing an arm or leg. You're website is amazing.

    P.S - You're not missing that much of your arm, you may feel like you are but I'm missing more and as time progresses doing everything gets much easier (i mean I play sports and I have one hand and I'm usually one of the best players)


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