LET’S TALK ABOUT SOCKS – AMPUTEE SOCKS
Yes, let’s talk about amputee socks (for those of you in skin fit suspension systems this will not apply to you). Maybe it will bring back memories of when you used socks, or who knows, maybe a future prosthesis will require socks. Read along and enjoy.
Amputee socks. Yes the dreaded words that all amputees (well most) have to endure.
Socks will provide comfort. Socks will help wick sweat from a sweaty limb. Socks will tighten up a loose fit. Socks are just a part of amputee life.
I have found in my years of being a prosthetist, amputee sock ply management education is the topic de jour, a conversation I have multiple times a day, and sometimes multiple times with the same person. It can require a learning curve for some users – and that is ok. Below are the main points to remember:
- Socks are a tool to manage your residual limb volume (size). This means that as your limb changes volume throughout the day the socks act as a filler between you and the socket. Remember, your limb will change sizes throughout the day. We tend to be more swollen in the morning and the swelling reduces after a few hours of being up and walking around. I know, I go through this personally, in the morning my socket fits much tighter than it does mid-day. After 1-2 hours of walking around my volume goes down and I start to feel much more comfortable. This happens to everybody. Don’t worry! This even happened to you before you were an amputee. The same principle applies to rings on your fingers. Do you ever find that your rings tend to fit a little tighter in the morning than they did when you went to bed? Do they take a little more effort to get over your knuckle in the morning? That is because there is more fluid in your extremities in the morning. After getting up and walking around the fluid will move up through your lymphatic system and your rings will have a normal fit again, and so will your socket.
- Amputee socks come in different sizes, thicknesses, and even colors. For thickness (ply), socks usually have a number or a colored band at the top of the sock indicating its ply. Socks are the cornerstone of volume management. It doesn’t matter whether you like using them or not, you need them. As prosthetists, we will do our best to adjust the socket shape to minimize how many socks you wear, but we can not control your physiology. We can not change biology. We can do a lot, but we are limited in our super powers.
- If you are not wearing enough socks, you may feel pain at the bottom of your limb or at your knee cap. Try putting on a thicker sock and see if that helps. If you have too much sock ply on, you will feel like the prosthesis is too tight and you can’t reach the bottom. Your prosthesis will also feel too tall. This is because with too much sock ply, your limb is not seated flush and snug in the socket. It is sitting up higher than it should, thus creating the sensation that the prosthesis is too tall.
- Always carry socks with you. If you carry a purse, stuff some socks in there. If you don’t carry a purse, buy a bag to carry with you like a backpack, fanny pack, messenger bag, etc. If you have a car, put socks in your glove compartment or center console. Keep a stash in your desk at work. Please make sure socks of varying ply are easily accessible to you throughout the day.
Contact your prosthetist if you have questions regarding socks or if you need more. You can always order online here if you prefer.
Good luck and may the socks be with you.