An interpretative phenomenological analysis of the embodiment of artificial limbs

Disabil Rehabil. 2004 Aug 19;26(16):963-73. doi: 10.1080/09638280410001696764.


Purpose: To gain an understanding of the embodied perceptual experience of successful prosthesis.

Method: The data for this study were transcripts derived from in-depth semi-structured e-mail (n=21) and face-to-face (n=14) interviews, and the documentary analysis of an e-mail discussion group for prosthesis users. This qualitative data was subject to an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis.

Results: Analysis of the research data identified six themes in the perceptually embodied experiences of prosthesis users: Adjusting to a prosthetic; The Balance of the Body; Awareness of the Prosthesis; The Knowing Body; The Phantom Becomes the Prosthesis: Extending the Body; and The Prosthesis as Tool or Corporeal Structure.

Conclusion: The often-cited reasons for the rejection of prostheses are frequently part of the initial experiences of 'successful' prosthesis users also. This suggests the need to sufficiently motivate potential prosthesis users in the period between an experience of prosthesis use as unnatural and wieldy to one of pre-reflective, natural use. In addition, two broad forms of prosthesis experience were identified: one in which the prosthesis was experienced as a corporeal structure; and one in which it was viewed as a tool. While future work may be able to explore the psychosocial correlates of these experiences, it is nonetheless the case that persons with these differing experiences were able to enjoy the benefits imbued by prosthesis use.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Artificial Limbs / psychology*
  • Awareness
  • Body Image*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Phantom Limb / psychology
  • Postural Balance
  • United Kingdom