Lower back pain and amputation

Lower back pain and amputation are unfortunate bedfellows. This study even shows that lower back pain is almost as common and as big a problem for people with a leg amputation as phantom pain. But what is the cause of this back pain? And more importantly, how do you get rid of it?

Please note that we are not doctors. Therefore, the content of our site is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult your physician with queries about back pain and never ignore professional medical advice.


Lower back pain and amputation are very unfortunate - and very common - bedfellows, with as many as 81% of people with an upper leg amputation experiencing lower back pain. In people with a lower leg amputation, this is 62% (view the study ). If you have had lower back pain yourself, you probably know that it can be quite a nuisance in your daily life. There has to be another way! We went looking for more information about this annoying symptom to find a solution.

Causes of lower back pain after amputation

In people who have undergone a leg amputation, a poorly fitting prosthesis is a common cause of lower back pain. To understand how this works, it is important to take a holistic view of the body. When one part of your body is imbalanced, another part of your body jumps in to compensate.

Take a prosthesis that is either too long or too short, for instance. If one of your legs is longer than the other, you will not be as well balanced while walking. However, you will probably not topple over, because your lower back muscles will compensate for the imbalance. Eventually, though, after weeks, months or even years, these muscles get tired and sore, resulting in lower back pain.

Treating lower back pain after amputation

If you have undergone a leg amputation and are suffering from lower back pain, it is important to determine the cause first. Schedule an appointment with your O&P professional, physical therapist or treatment team to find out what is causing your symptoms. Often, they will recommend one of the treatments listed below.


1. Adjusting your prosthesis

Your prosthesis will be assembled so that both of your legs are the same length. Over time, however, this ratio may change somewhat, affecting how you walk and stand, and often resulting in back pain. If this is the case with you, your O&P professional can adjust the height and/or fit of your prosthesis, which will rebalance your body and reduce the pressure on your pelvis and lower back.


2. Adapting your habits

After a while, some movements, actions and postures become a habit.

Maybe you've gotten used to swinging one leg a little farther than the other, or to relieving one of your legs a little more. In some cases, your posture may be sub-optimal. Your physical therapist can give you exercises to help improve your posture. Wearing a prosthesis can also put extra strain on your back muscles. By strengthening your back muscles and stretching regularly, you will build a back that is more able to support your movements.

Are you familiar with the free app Fitness for Amputees? This app contains easy exercises and was developed by Ottobock’s physical therapists. All you need is a mat, towel and ball.


3. Losing weight

Have you gained some weight lately? This too can cause back pain. And while it can be difficult to lose weight, it is very important for your general health.

There are also other causes of lower back pain, some of which are serious. Is the intensity of your back pain increasing quickly? Have you lost or gained a lot of weight in a short period of time? Have you lost control of your bladder and/or bowels? Does the pain keep you up at night? Do you find yourself fretting about your back pain? If any of the above apply to you, consult your GP.

Do you suffer from back pain? Or do you have a perfect solution for this major nuisance? Let us know in the Movao forum!