A Stump-Sock Stretcher

0. JAMES HURT, M.D.


Regardless of the method of washing, stump socks do shrink. Probably more stump socks are discarded for this reason than for any other. Few amputees ever wear out a stump sock.

Most people make an effort to stretch stump socks by hand. This does help but is really only minimally effective. An apparatus which will stretch stump socks uniformly and prolong their useful life is needed. The "Stump-Sock Stretcher" described in this report might well be this apparatus.

The thought occurred that a plastic mold, sized to the stump sock, would permit uniform stretching. This mold was made and found to be effective. New stump socks were stretched so easily that an attempt was made to stretch old stump socks that had been discarded. This was more difficult, nevertheless it was accomplished.

Fabrication of the Stretcher

Stump socks, of course, come in various sizes. Hence it is desirable that each amputee have his own stretcher, sized to the dimensions of his socks. Since the stretcher is neither difficult nor expensive to produce this individualizing of sizes should not present a serious problem.

To fabricate the stretcher a plaster-of-paris positive mold is made to the size of the patient's stump sock. Over this mold the shell of the sock stretcher is made either by laminating or by using other plastic techniques. The shell should then be placed on a stand to facilitate the stretching process.

For this purpose a 3/4-in. pipe with a flange at each end is used. The proximal flange is attached to a block of wood shaped to fit the closed end of the stretcher and is secured with a screw ([popup1a]). Additional support is provided in the middle or proximal third of the shell and, again, this support is held in place by screws. If desired, the interior of the shell can be foamed to give additional support. The distal flange is attached to a wood base approximately 10 in. square and 1 in. thick (25 cm x 25 cm x 2.5 cm). [popup1b] shows the finished device.

Stretching Techniques

Two techniques have been used-one for new stump socks for which the stretcher was designed initially; and one for stump socks that had shrunk to an extent that they were no longer usable. The stump socks are washed using a soap and washing routine recommended for wool.

The Technique for NewStump Socks

Several new stump socks may be washed simultaneously, stretched over the mold and hung up to dry. Each sock is pulled over the stretcher by hand. Some amputees prefer to place the stretcher on the floor so as to gain the mechanical advantage of ‘leaning" into the stretcher. A wet stump sock can be stretched 1 to 2 in. (2.5 to 5 cm) easily and with little effort ( Fig. 1-B and Fig. 2 ).

The Technique for Old Stump Socks

Old stump socks are much more difficult to stretch. They are done one at a time and should be left on the mold 8 to 24 hours. After washing, the stump sock is stretched and held on the mold using clothespins. After 8 to 24 hours, the sock is removed and placed on a line or rack to dry completely before storing. Old stump socks need to be stretched and held on the mold each time they are washed. Fig. 3 and Fig. 4 show an old, dry and unstretched stump sock, and the same sock washed and stretched. Fig. 5 indicates the relative sizes of old, new, and old (stretched) stump socks.

Major Benefits to be Realized

  1. Each stump sock can be used for a longer period: how much longer has not yet been determined. Since stump socks cost $3.00 to $12.00 and up (and the price is increasing), this saving can be substantial for each amputee.
  2. This stretching method will conserve a material-wool-that is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain and is of poorer and less uniform quality than was previously the case. At present there is no satisfactory substitute for wool as a material for stump socks. We feel the Stump-Sock Stretcher will save considerable money and "stretch" a valuable material further.

Veterans Administration Hospital, Louisville, Kentucky