How to actually pick, choose, decide for a particular type and make of a prosthetic arm [mental flow chart]

So you consider a prosthetic arm. But, what do get?

What others think?

An amputated arm surely constitutes an asymmetry of sorts. But I would say this handicap is not only hard to understand by "just looking". Much worse, it contains many levels of hidden asymmetries, the least of which - in terms of relevance - is "how it looks in the eyes of others". What is important is how you look, overall. Not how it looks.

Others mostly will reject us arm amputees or be rather cautious. We tend to make the others a bit nervous. There is no etiquette book, you cannot read, learn and master the art of polite and danger free conversation, not with an amputee. We are known to be also hot tempered, angry, under constant pain, under lots of pain at least at times, and from overall experience, we may differ from others quite a bit in some aspects, or more disturbingly, we may just not in any other aspect. There is no rule book on converse with an amputee, leave alone on how to live life, but that may really become a very stressful reality once we sit down together with others. What then. So they usually reject that experience and make detours. That is totally normal.


Prosthetic arms are not particularly good at really hiding the handicap.

The degree to which others really can be fooled into visually not detecting this sort of handicap is limited. You may stand a fair chance to go through as non-handicapped if you take, for example, colder temperature situations where you would wear long sleeves and where you can tuck the arm, with or without prosthesis, into a coat or jacket pocket (if necessary, now is a good time to remember the title of this blog; you came here all by yourself, right). Passive or cosmetic arms may go a long way to provide the necessary contours there. But any situation involving close up encounters with people that either see well or that have good optical correction will never be passed by arm amputees, not in this day and age [check link to Appearance test].

Others, like, the naive non-disabled person, will still feel acceptably well, probably, mostly, if you give them a chance. You do not need a prosthetic arm for that, and if you wear one, mostly any will do for that type of non-handicapped person. A prosthetic arm may, however, influence you yourself, so you may feel more OK yourself with any given situation wearing some particular outfit or prosthetic type or look. So regardless of what others think about "it", you should try to get whatever makes you feel "empowered".

On a more subtle note, the type of expression people can transmit over their choice of clothes styling also can be transmitted over the styling of your prosthetic arm. I wear no styling at all mostly, just the bare functional body powered parts out and a hook, and so recently, a hand surgeon approached me in public and told me how good that I was wearing so much "high tech". It certainly was not the prosthetic arm itself that made him think that. Goes to show just how well people see, how much they really know about the type of technologies that we wear, and what may come of it. Some other time I wore the red glove covered Becker hand; a few times over a few years, people would wish me a good recovery from "my arm injury". An interesting experience after getting Centri to make dark red "cosmetic" gloves : )


There, the degree of reliability may turn out to be far more of a real social issue than the specifics of how it looks.

You stand a far greater chance of getting re-invited to some party if you maybe exposed some difficulty with the champagne glasses or beer cans with one hand (but nothing was damaged) than when you turn up with a new "bionic" hand whose quirk may be that it just "lets go" in between (and you end up breaking two glasses and spilling a beer can).

What do you think?

In terms of appearances, you want to see for yourself how it is that you (as a whole) look, without or with a prosthetic on. You may get someone to take a picture of you, you may take a selfie, or get a video taken of some motions or activities. Then you can estimate whether to go short or long sleeved, or whether to get that tattoo or not. And all of that.


However, I tend to think that there are two groups of non-handicapped people that interfere differently with our "looks".

  • One group gets upset about the amputee aspect being visual.But they usually also cannot deal with these facts of life when I wear this, or that, prosthetic arm. In essence, no constructive social contact emerges anyway. So in terms of evaluating their actual influence on my appearance decisions - they are irrelevant. They cannot be helped no matter what. They will always have something to say but the world is better off without listening too much.
  • The second group is not upset. Really, inasmuch as your hosed arm is concerned, they don't give a shit. So, they are irrelevant too, in terms of influencing your choice of prosthetic arm with special regard to "looks", because they do not really take offense. They do their own thing instead.

It is only what you think, on how you want to solve what you believe is your appearance problem.

It may well be that a prosthetic arm influences you (and not others), and that particular type of influence then ends up being what makes a difference. In my experience, the influence that you allow your prosthetic arm (wearing it) to have on yourself is far greater than the influence it has on others.

So it is important from that angle that you do this trip into that inside of yourself.

What matters?

Others, non-disabled, "the people", cannot actually be influenced by the type of prosthetic that you wear. Not really, and not in a relevant way. Their perception they have is of you overall, as a whole person.

You, on the other hand, may experience some own profound empowerment, by either wearing no prosthetic arm at all, or, by wearing a particular arm; if that is so, then you may want to follow these notions and start investigating. The heavier and clumsier the arm, generally, the more you deal with a burden. Some people, in that sense, have to carry their own Pegasus.


What definitely matters is not what can be seen, but what occurs functionally. But that is usually forgotten when considering prosthetic arms and how they look like. People nowadays may just get so caught up in these hand lookalike contest settings. Really, it is not about who has the nicest looking add-on to one's body. Really, it is about who masters the two aspects of  reverse influence - overuse, and posture.


First of all, you have to reduce the overuse of the other arm. For that, you may find a perfect comfort and particularly high performance prosthetic useful, particularly for activities that do overload the other arm (not just holding a piece of paper for a few minutes). Mostly, a body powered arm solves that aspect best [link]. Repetitions, similar grips, vibration, heavy weights are probably the most risky in terms of overuse. And wrong posture (which overlaps with the second issue).


Secondly, improving posture by reducing asymmetric load on shoulders and spine has to be attempted. There, center of gravity and weight play a role. You really should target balance and overall symmetry first. No self respecting Borg would do less regarding their choice of hardware. Look at their posture. They balanced themselves really well. Ever watch a Star Trek episode where a Borg urgently needed a neck or back rub, leave alone a massage? See?


Cite this article:
Wolf Schweitzer: Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - How to actually pick, choose, decide for a particular type and make of a prosthetic arm [mental flow chart]; published 06/03/2015, 00:40; URL:

BibTeX: @MISC{schweitzer_wolf_1602729750, author = {Wolf Schweitzer}, title = {{Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - How to actually pick, choose, decide for a particular type and make of a prosthetic arm [mental flow chart]}}, month = {March},year = {2015}, url = {}}