ADL activities of daily living - arm stump only [ANPPN Activites of No Particular Prosthetic Need]

Of course one can spend all day theoretically analyzing grip options and comparing different options or, just do it.

It is intriguing to see recent surges of apparent ADL (activity of daily living) demonstrated with so-called "bionic hands" (including Otto Bock Michelangelo hand, iLimb by TouchBionics and BeBionic by RSL Steeper). For the most part, these are not a demonstration of a need to wear any of these hands.

There are people that realize that not all advertising really means the offered solution works. Hand transplants - as useful or useless as some of the new 'bionic' hand gadgets - are known to fail and some people take a while before they verbally and publicly admit that body powered hooks are not as bad after all. As Jeff Kepner said in a video interview - with a hook you know what to expect. The difference still is that 'bionic' hands can be put aside - whereas hand transplants cannot.

Stories like that makes you consider however just how much can be done without ANY prosthetic or transplanted hand. Just to get a feel for the functionality and to fully feel with the extremity.

Videos are at least somewhat non-negotiable, and therein lies their beauty. Conversely you will hate me for the simplicity of (at least some of) these. So below is a demo of actual ADL using the arm stump only. Any of these may be also carried out with a prosthetic arm, but in many instances they work a lot better with 'just' the stump. Old orthopedic surgeons used to say "the best prosthetic arm is the stump itself" and it seems that the extra time my surgeon spent on my arm to fix it up proper and neat was time well spent. I find that the stump he left we with is in fact useful - long enough and sensitive.

Grinding coffee

If you also grind your coffee yourself this would be one of the ways to do it. I place the container underneath the opening of the mill and switch the machine on with the stump.

Switching espresso machine

I often operate coffee machines and placing if not holding a cup underneath requires me to push buttons with the other limb. Here we go.

Squeezing tooth paste onto tooth brush

Some people somewhere apparently said they were able to put tooth paste onto their brush for the very first time - using an iLimb. How utterly funny. Is this the new advertising deal people that can't pay an arm and a leg for that iLimb so instead they promise to be poster boy or poster girl for that device? "I never was able to brush my teeth until now"?

Here is how it is done and as you see, no problem whatsoever.

Filling water bottle

For some reason people think of filling water bottles (or just holding them) as proof of human dexterity. I never even considered that task as in any way peculiar but here we go, the ritual of filling a water bottle.

Switching a light switch in the house

As much as this looks like a really stupid thing to show - it works in the dark. I feel the switch. I get out of bed and without further complications I feel the switch and can push it. Tada.

Manipulating / using smart phone

Using a smart phone with a prosthetic hand risks dropping it. Dropping your smart phone is dumb. Better not drop it. As prostheses are not too reliable I could recommend a particular Hosmer hook that really works well with the iPhone 4 - but the universal solution for me is to not wear the prosthetic and use my stump to operate the touch screen.

Driving car

If you drive your car with a prosthetic, failure may be a problem. If an accident occurs, maybe reading the manufacturer's fine print will help. Or make you unhappy. I use a V2P Prehensor on a body powered arm for driving, a hook or a Becker hand - these work very well. Best and safest however is driving with the stump. No fine print to worry about there.

Carrying multiple items of varying softness

"Bionic" hands are often advertised to be able to carry stuff. Shoot, any prosthetic hook or Becker hand does that with the same ease and far more reliability. But carrying several items, maybe even of different stiffness / softness, is better done with the stump.

Carrying tray

To actually carry a larger number of items I usually use a tray or a bag. A tray is a good thing and whether I wear a prosthesis or not, I will refer to a tray for transporting my food. With that, the actual need to wear a prosthetic arm is urgently reduced. Here we go, tray carrying with the bare arm stump.

As you also see, pouring a drink and drinking it is well possible without a prosthetic arm. Just because I am inconvenienced doesn't mean I need to rest my sound arm at all times, no?

Replacing tray back into cupboard

After usage the tray goes back. A simple mundane task, delivered correctly without usage of 'bionic' or other type of prosthesis.

Getting toast bread from bread bag

Getting toast bread from bread bag is a difficult manual task. Here, it is solved without prosthetic arm. As you see, the stump serves to hold the bag.

Toasting bread

It's far too simple to describe it in all detail. But there really is nothing to it either. I am sure someone will tell us that to toast a bread you now need a 'bionic' hand. When that happens, we will know that someone already did it just with the stump.

Tying shoe

Tying bags, garbage bags, vegetable or fruit bags, and tying cords of clothes such as swim trunks or shorts are part of the difficulties of my disability. I get better though. Here is a retake of how I tie my shoes as very early demos were really slow [link]. It works well and the knot is firm.


Typing is absolutely no problem with the bare stump alone. There are some low-tech tools to make it easier. Wearing a hook works best. For prosthetic hands I suggest to use a pencil for typing. Here we go, bare residual limb.

Tying a tie

Put on and take off wrist watch

Putting on and taking off wrist watch is not too hard even without a sophisticated prosthesis. In fact it is a lot easier without artificial arm. I mean, I tried. I know.

Further examples

Bass playing [link].

Pulling electric cable [link].

Ultimate and extreme activities

On the top end of what one can do, physically, prosthetic arms always crap out.

IKEA PAX wardrobe system - transport and assembly [link].

Moving heavy furniture [link]. I do a bit of that wearing my body powered arm, but when there must not be any scratches, or, when parts are really heavy, then working without the prosthesis is the definite way to go.

I am aware of the fact that these activities can also be attempted with prosthetic 'bionic' hands. But, why bother. Using the bare stump is a lot faster (do not even try to argue that, I measured) and a lot less hassle (one is less disabled without the prosthetic on every now and so often, do not believe that I am not analytically getting behind that, also in terms of cold blooded appreciation of grip mechanics that can be just as well applied to the "stump holding object against belly" configuration, just in case you wondered). With that money you can save up to buy a house - a huge boost for your self esteem and an investment too. Think about it.

Cite this article:
Wolf Schweitzer: - ADL activities of daily living - arm stump only [ANPPN Activites of No Particular Prosthetic Need]; published 26/08/2011, 00:10; URL:

BibTeX: @MISC{schweitzer_wolf_1638536962, author = {Wolf Schweitzer}, title = {{ - ADL activities of daily living - arm stump only [ANPPN Activites of No Particular Prosthetic Need]}}, month = {August}, year = {2011}, url = {} }

1 thought on “ADL activities of daily living - arm stump only [ANPPN Activites of No Particular Prosthetic Need]

  1. Thank you for your explanations! I'm a left hand amputee with a stump a few inches shorter than yours. I do things in pretty similar ways. In warm weather I don't use my hook much, and I can do most things, like rebuilding a carburetor, replacing a timing belt, or doing woodworking. (with care since that's how I lost my hand) I always remove my prosthesis when moving heavy furniture or big boxes, since the hook tears the cardboard and scratches finished wood, and also my stump provides feeling and has more friction on slippery surfaces. Yes we can!

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