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The evolution of prosthetics – Part 1: Artificial toes from Ancient Egypt to Darth Vader and beyond

This fascinating image shows an artificial toe which was found on the foot of an Egyptian mummy that is estimated to date back somewhere between 950 B.C. and 710 B.C and is believed to be the earliest known example of a prosthetic limb or artificial limb.  Housed at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, the wood and leather artificial toe comprises three parts and would have strapped on to the foot of the owner.

Even though the Star Wars character Darth Vader is fictional, he represents the leaps and bounds that technology continues to take in the ever evolving quest to produce the best that prosthetic technology has to offer.  “It was said that due to the extent of his injuries, Darth Vader was 80% machine (prosthetics) and a mere 20% human.  Both of his legs were severed at the knees, his right arm at the elbow and his left arm just below the shoulder.  (Wikipedia).

Yet, long before Darth Vader hit the big screen in 1977 and way before we ever heard of the Bionic Man, prosthetics that were designed to replace lost limbs offered little in terms of movement and were crafted from materials such as wood and other fibres.

 

Prosthetics have been around since ancient times

In the past, prosthetics tended to look very much like the limbs they were designed to replace.  Jacky Finch, lead author of a 2012 study published in the Journal of Prosthetics & Orthotics, describes two different artificial toes emanating from Ancient Egypt that are believed to be the earliest known artificial limbs.

Prosthetics or artificial limbs as such, have been around since ancient times but prosthetic technology did not really take off until the time of the two World Wars.  The ingenuity of engineers was tested by a large number of amputees from war injuries which subsequently resulted in the growth of manufacturers of artificial limbs.

Most people could not afford professionally made artificial limbs until the 20th Century

Since most people could not afford professionally made artificial limbs until the 20th Century, they instead fashioned their own prosthetics out of whatever materials they had to hand.  Believe it or not such consisted of a chair or table leg.

In the late 19th Century people used materials from around the house to design their own prosthetic legs

In the late 19th Century it was not uncommon for people to use materials from around the house, such as wood, nails, textiles and string to design their own prosthetic legs.

Prosthetic arms were slightly more complicated to make in the 1900s

In the 1900s prosthetic arms were slightly more complicated to make.  The image below depicts an arm made by a London based manufacturer fashioned from wood, leather and a type of textile.  A leather strap passes under the undamaged part of the arm like a sling and the wooden hand has a strong rotating wrist with fingers that move.  A small hook in the palm allows the owner to carry or grasp items.

 

Developing prosthetic technologies – beyond Darth Vader

Given how far we have come in prosthetic technological development since ancient times, there should be no doubt in our minds that technology itself advances at a rapid, exponential rate.  What is seen as science fiction often materializes into realities created by advancing technologies.

For example, technologies exist nowadays that allow implants to be placed in the sensory system to control nerve action as opposed to devices being attached to the body with straps or those that are artificially powered.

Information source:  Jacky Finch, lead author of a 2012 study published in the Journal of Prosthetics & Orthotics

Prosthetic examples pictures source:   Science Museum London

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Articles/Case Studies

Subconscious mind heals amputees with residual limb nerve pain

 

Says Roger Wolfson, “Some people often mistakenly refer to nerve pain in the residual limb of an amputee as ‘phantom limb syndrome’.  I would first like to clarify that phantoms or spooks or in fact anything of that nature, have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with what a patient experiences here.  What is actually happening is that  the source of the pain is the nerve of the residual limb.   It is from here that the pain emanates.  I usually find that once I clearly explain the facts to the patient, this goes a long way towards hastening the healing process.   A positive attitude along with any other methods that work for the individual concerned can only improve the condition.’

Many amputees feel nerve pain in the residual limb as part of their reality.  And part of that reality often involves tremendous discomfort.

What follows is an interesting story involving the use of the subconscious mind to aid the healing process.   Roger’s explanation clearly explains the medical facts.  Yet,  amputees often have the sensation of feeling pain in a limb that is no longer actually there.

The subconscious mind is prone to curious patterns of behaviour

 

Here, we refrain from going into lengthy details and definitions.   In a nutshell, what we can say is that our subconscious mind is prone to rather curious patterns of behaviour. Unlike the conscious mind, whose prime directive is to literally direct and control the will that influences the subconscious mind.   Of itself, the subconscious mind cannot tell the difference between what one perceives as real and what one imagines.

While this at first may appear to be an impediment to the functionality of the subconscious, this is actually not the case. The subconscious mind is purposely designed this way.  This is how it receives ‘patterns’ and it works with these patterns without question.

The subconscious mind is unable to tell the difference between what is real and imagined

This phenomenon has implications that are far reaching when we use a technique such as visualization.  Visualization is a ‘Mind Power’ technique by world renown author and speaker on the topic, John Kehoe.  Using this technique the conscious mind is soberly aware of the fact that visualizations are a creation of the mind.   They are actually not ‘real’ in a physical essence.  Yet, by contrast, the subconscious mind is unable to tell the difference.

Investigating the potentials of the subconscious would usually involve ‘gurus’

The subconscious mind accepts such visualizations unquestioningly.   Persistently holding these visualizations in the mind over a period of time causes them to embed within. The discipline of investigating the behavior of the subconscious mind traditionally involves the likes of psychologists or even mystics in order to delve into its depths. Such ‘gurus’ are better qualified to explore these potentials.  As a result, there is no significant body of research based in scientific experimentation investigating the potentials of the subconscious mind.  There is no base upon which to substantiate evidential claims.  Yet, there is, however, an interesting account of an experiment among amputees that demonstrates the wonders of the subconscious mind.

Due to their inability to move or interact with the amputated limb, amputees often report feeling pain in their residual limb.   We refer to this as residual limb nerve pain.

In an attempt to come up with ways and means to help amputees manage residual limb nerve pain, researchers go about constructing a special device.  This contraption enables them to ‘trick’ the subconscious mind.  In this particular case we are dealing with upper limb amputees.

An experiment in ‘reality’

The device is fashioned like a box with openings on each side to accommodate ‘both arms’.  The box is exposed on one side and on the other a mirror is positioned in front of the opening. The patient is asked to position both ‘arms’ in front of each opening and flex their ‘good arm’.  Upon looking in the ‘mirror’ it appears as though the amputated arm is also being flexed whereby in actual fact it is ‘hidden’ behind the mirror .

This exercise gives the ‘appearance’ of the patient flexing the amputated arm.  The conscious mind knows that this is all an act, in that the amputated arm no longer exists.  But, the subconscious mind accepts the ‘mirror image’ of the arm flexing as ‘real’.  After a number of weeks of repeating this exercise, patients report that their pain either diminishes significantly or disappears altogether.

One thing is certain, the facts are plain that  anything which logically promotes the healing process is a case where the end certainly does justify the means.

 

Reference source: Quantum Warrior | The Future of the Mind – by John Kehoe (Zoetic Inc. 2011)

You might also enjoy:  http://rogerwolfsonandassociates.co.za/from-surgery-to-rehabilitation-to-the-fitting-of-your-prosthesis-the-journey-part-1/

http://rogerwolfsonandassociates.co.za/your-prosthetist-may-ask-you-if-your-prosthesis-hurts/

3 important questions you should ask prior to undergoing a lower limb amputation

 

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Articles/Case Studies

Experiment conducted among amputees with residual limb nerve pain demonstrates the wonders of the subconscious mind

Nerve pain in the residual limb is a reality felt by many amputees. And part of that reality often involves tremendous discomfort.  Yet, one needs to bear in mind that the mind has a lot  to do with what is going on.  While we are aware that it is the nerves of the amputated limb through which the pain is felt, amputees often have the sensation of pain being felt in a limb that is no longer actually there.

The subconscious mind is prone to curious patterns of behaviour

In particular, let’s take a look at the subconscious mind. Without going into lengthy details and definitions, in a nutshell, what we can say is that our subconscious mind is prone to rather curious patterns of behaviour. Unlike the conscious mind, whose prime directive is to literally direct and control the will that influences the subconscious mind, of itself, the subconscious mind cannot tell the difference between what is perceived as real and what is imagined.

While this at first may appear to be an impediment to the functionality of the subconscious, this is actually not the case. The subconscious mind has purposely been designed this way in order that it may receive patterns and work with these patterns without question.

The subconscious mind is unable to tell the difference between what is real and imagined

This phenomenon has implications that are far reaching in that when we use a technique such as visualization, one of the ‘Mind Power’ techniques presented by world renown author and speaker on the topic, John Kehoe, the conscious mind is soberly aware of the fact that visualizations are created by the mind and not actually ‘real’ in physical essence, yet, by contrast, the subconscious mind is unable to tell the difference.

Investigating the potentials of the subconscious would usually involve ‘gurus’

The subconscious mind accepts such visualizations unquestioningly and if these visualizations are persistently held in the mind over a period of time they become embedded within. The discipline of investigating the behavior of the subconscious mind would traditionally involve the likes of psychologists or even mystics in order to delve into its depths. Such ‘gurus’ would be better qualified to explore such potentials and as a result, there remains no significant body of research based in scientific experimentation investigating the potentials of the subconscious mind upon which to base substantial evidential claims, yet, there was, however, an experiment conducted among amputees with phantom limb syndrome that demonstrates the wonders of the subconscious mind.

Due to their inability to move or interact with the amputated limb, amputees often report feeling pain in their residual limb.   This is referred to as residual limb nerve pain.

In an attempt to come up with ways and means to help amputees manage this pain, researchers constructed a special device that enabled them to ‘trick’ the subconscious mind. In this particular case we are dealing with upper limb amputees.

An experiment in ‘reality’

The device was constructed like a box with openings on each side to accommodate ‘both arms’. The box was exposed on one side and on the other a mirror was positioned in front of the opening. The patient was then asked to position both ‘arms’ in front of each opening and flex their ‘good arm’ and upon looking in the ‘mirror’ it appeared as though the amputated arm was also being flexed whereby in actual fact it was ‘hidden’ behind the mirror .

This exercise gave the ‘appearance’ of the patient having flexed the amputated arm. While the conscious mind knew that this was all an act, in that the amputated arm was no longer there, the subconscious mind accepted the ‘mirror image’ of the arm flexing as ‘real’. After a number of weeks of repeating this exercise, patients tested reported that their pain had either diminished significantly or disappeared altogether.

 

Reference source: Quantum Warrior | The Future of the Mind – by John Kehoe (Zoetic Inc. 2011)

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Articles/Case Studies

The importance of psychological counselling when undergoing an amputation – part 2

 

The importance of communication between the patient and their loved ones cannot be overemphasized. Each individual will naturally have their own unique concerns that need to be addressed. For example, a child might be afraid that peers will make fun of him because his father is missing an arm.

Or, a wife may be anxious about taking on responsibilities that are normally handled by her husband. Alternatively, she may even be afraid that he will be unable to support the family. Family counselling is an absolute must as a tool in the journey towards adjustment.

The time period following surgery may also pose additional stress and challenges to a relationship that is not doing well. Hence, it also makes sense for those in difficult relationships to seek counselling, preferably prior to surgery.

 

A tower of strength in peer support

Other amputees can be a tower of strength in peer support and offer invaluable advice and frequently provide comfort around personal issues such as pregnancy and child care.

Pre-surgery counselling enables a healthier emotional and physical recovery process. It helps the patient to feel supported, validated and to know that they have someone as part of their treatment team who they can lean on in respect of ongoing education, support and guidance. A support group is a safe haven where people can share and feel understood and validated.

 

What your prosthetist can do to help

Some patients may be reluctant to see their prosthetist when things aren’t going too well since they might feel that they are being bothersome or revealing failure. A prosthetist will therefore endeavour to ensure that the patient feels comfortable and will welcome these follow up sessions for any adjustments that may be needed.

It is also common for small problems to become large ones and for such to cause limitations in terms of function and mobility. Hence a prosthetist will endeavour to address such problems before they affect the patient’s quality of life.

 

 

Getting patients more involved in their own decision making and getting them excited and asking questions helps the prosthetist to ensure that a person is more empowered.

A prosthetist will recognize when a patient needs outside help

A prosthetist will recognize when a patient needs outside help beyond the scope of the orthotics and prosthetics practice and will refer the patient to other specialists.

Possible underlying mental health concerns

Telltale signs that may indicate that extra help is needed are such things as fatigue, missed appointments, low energy levels, impaired memory, difficulty in comprehending a task and poor hygiene. Such can point to underlying mental health conditions. If the patient voices suicidal thoughts or intentions, immediate action should be taken to assess mental status and take precautionary measures where necessary. However, it needs to be borne in mind that it is normal for people to experience feelings of sadness, denial, fear and anger in their own unique ways and time periods while others will adjust to their amputations with very few psychological problems.

Knowing a good psychologist

Knowing a good psychologist and being able to recognize at what point a patient may need to be referred are important factors a prosthetist will always bear in mind.   Suicidal thoughts would be an obvious reason for referral to a psychologist and a person who may be struggling with body image, problems, anxiety, depression or other mental illnesses would also benefit. Peer support is also an important factor and a good prosthetist will know when to recommend peer support versus seeing a psychologist.

Give Roger a call now on (011) 640 7198 or send an email to info@rogerwolfsonandassociates.co.za.

 

 

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