Amputees have many challenges to overcome. The loss of a limb can be life-changing, to say the least. One struggle some amputees face is called Phantom Limb. This scientific mystery can be painful and scary for amputees. Thankfully, there are many resources to help them find relief.
What Is Phantom Limb
Phantom Limb is the sensation felt by an amputee after a limb has been amputated. It may be described as shooting, stabbing, cramping, pins and needles, crushing, throbbing, or burning. While the pain may be felt throughout the body, there is no actual physical point of origin for the pain. It is usually felt in the general area around or near the amputation. Most sensations associated with phantom limb are experienced within the first few months post surgery, but amputees can show symptoms any time after surgery.
What’s The Cause
There is no clear science behind the cause of phantom limb pains. There have been many speculations about the origin of a phantom limb including, the memory of previous limb pain, a rewiring of the nervous system after amputation, and even the misfiring of the bundling of nerves around the amputation site.
Each of these causes has been situational and are not experienced by every amputee. The level of pain also varies between amputee. While the symptoms may not be consistent across the board, the pain that is felt is very much real.
Phantom limb pains effect an amputee’s emotional and even physical well being. With no direct source of the pain, it can be difficult to find a treatment that works. However, it has been found that the most effective treatment seems to be combining some of these popular pain management techniques:
- Heat application.
- Biofeedback to reduce muscle tension
- Relaxation techniques.
- Massage of the amputation area.
- Surgery to remove scar tissue entangling a nerve.
- Physical therapy.
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) of the stump.
- Opioid and non-opioid analgesics.
- Tricyclic antidepressants.
- Sodium channel blockers.
Beyond physical treatment for phantom limb pains, amputees should seek out the advice of those who have been in the same situation. Listening to the stories of those who have been in similar situations and come out on top can be beyond motivating. There are many resources such as online support groups and Facebook pages that can give amputees access to a whole community of encouragement. The most important element to recovery is to not give up, and seek out help whenever and wherever possible.