How Do Prosthetic Arms Work?

Have you ever watched someone with a prosthetic arm and wondered how they were able to get the arm to move for them? People can use their prosthetic to pick things up, play sports, and complete other day-to-day tasks. How can they do these things with just a prosthetic limb? There are different ways to power the limbs. Here are the 3 methods that can be used and how they work to allow the amputee to complete various tasks:

Body Powered

In body-powered arms, there are cables which connect the limb to another part of your body. The cable may run from the prosthetic hand or pincher to your opposite shoulder. As you move your opposite shoulder in various ways, you can control the prosthetic.

Motor Powered

In motor-powered arms, there are switches and buttons that control the prosthetic. These can be pushed by your opposite shoulder or the same shoulder if it has the muscle needed to push them. You can practice with the limb to figure out where the switches and buttons are and what each one can do for you.

Myoelectric Powered

The most recent technology in powering prosthetic limbs is myoelectric power. With these, the arms are powered by the muscles in your residual limb that can be contracted to generate electrical signals to move the limb. Electrodes are placed on the skin to read the muscle contractions and cause the limbs to move accordingly.

When using any of these ways to power a prosthetic arm, it can take some time to get used to moving the limb. You need to figure out the right way to move to pull the cable, push the buttons and switches, or contract your muscles in order to make the arm work the way you want it to. At Human Technology Prosthetics & Orthotics in Memphis, we can work with you to help you practice with the limb and figure out how to use it.