Limb Loss

Limb loss generally refers to the absence of any part of an extremity (such as arms or legs) due to surgical, traumatic amputation or malformation. Limb loss could be acquired from birth, an accident, war injury, disease, health condition (eg. diabetes) or through surgery.


Typical symptoms following the loss of a limb vary depending on the severity of the loss and the individual’s circumstances. Some of the traits may include:

  • Pain related to bone fragments within the wound, poor circulation, hypersensitive nerve endings, or clothes/bandages being wrapped too tightly
  • Associated mental health issues including depression, anxiety or PTSD
  • Grieving the loss of a limb or body image in a similar way to the loss of family or friends
  • Amputees experiencing phantom limb sensations. This is the feeling that the limb is still there, is itchy, or moving as it did prior to the amputation
  • Some individuals may feel uncomfortable discussing the reason for, or events surrounding the limb loss.

Potential impact on daily life and employment

This will vary depending on the severity of the limb loss (number of limbs, stage in recovery, nature of employment, resilience of the individual, external support etc.).

  • May need extra support in carrying out day-to-day activities as mobility and functional capability may be affected
  • The individual may experience associated mental health conditions
  • May require regular rehabilitation, operations and treatments which may impact on work or social activities
  • Associated pain may limit activities or functional capability and may fluctuate on a daily basis
  • Medication may cause fatigue and/or reduced cognitive functioning.

Support in the workplace

  • Ask about medication or treatment and accommodate to allow such treatment to be supported (eg. planned operations, rehabilitation)
  • Individuals may be taking pain relief medication - discuss the use of adjustments such as flexible hours, regular breaks or late starts to ensure that pain is managed
  • Ensure there is good access to all required areas of the work environment
  • If the individual is unsure of their functional capacity, consider a functional capacity evaluation to assess workplace needs and adjustments required
  • If the condition is a result of trauma, for example a car accident or soldier injured on active service, they may experience other physical or mental difficulties. If this is the case, they should be advised to talk to their manager
  • Reinforce learning with written information or CDs/DVDs
  • Consider allocated car parking spaces for individuals with mobility restrictions.

Australia has the second highest lower limb amputation rate in the world. 

Source; The Australian Orthotic Prosthetic Association Ltd. 2015.

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