Phantom Limb Pain: Causes and Management

Phantom Limb Pain Causes and Management | HealthSoul

Managing pain can be a complicated process. It differs from one person to another, making it all the more difficult for healthcare workers. If there is one condition that continues to puzzle doctors and researchers, it would be the phantom limb.

What Is a Phantom Limb?

If your arm or leg has been amputated, there is a possibility that you can still feel pain even if your body part is no longer there. As the name implies, this particular pain is more commonly felt in the arms and legs, but can be felt for any removed body part, such as the breasts after a mastectomy.

Phantom limb pain is a case to case basis. In some patients, the pain can quickly resolve without the need for an intervention. For others, though, the pain can persist and become unbearable. When this happens, it is always best to work with a doctor and undergo a pain medication management session with clinics specializing in such conditions, such as Seattle Pain Relief.

What Are the Causes of a Phantom Limb?

One thing that sets phantom limb apart from other conditions is that its cause is unknown. For one, how can you feel pain on a body part that is no longer there? However, one plausible explanation for it would be the “rewiring” that the nerves in the spinal cord and brain undergo when they no longer receive signals from the missing limb. Since the arm or leg is nonexistent, the signal sent is that of a pain signal – the response sent when the body senses that something is not right. Another possible reason for phantom limb would be the presence of scar tissue and damaged nerve endings following limb removal.

Feeling the Pain: How Does Phantom Limb Pain Feel

The sensation of phantom limb pain can vary from one person to another and can be different, depending on the body part that is missing. For example, a stomach cramp would feel different from back pain. However, it is common to feel shooting and burning pain in the missing limb. Some individuals also report feeling pins and needles, crushing or twisting pain, and even a feeling of electric shock. It is also pretty common to feel movement, pressure, itch, vibration, and temperature from the missing limb.

What Are the Treatment Options Available?

While doctors are yet to identify a medication that would work to curb phantom limb pain, many have found success by using drugs indicated for epilepsy and depression.

In addition to these medications, doctors would also provide non-drug therapies, such as:

  • Acupuncture: For those who want to try alternative treatments, acupuncture is an ideal choice. Practitioners would use thin needles and insert them into specific places in the body. As a result, the body will produce chemicals that help relieve pain.
  • Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS): These devices would be effective at providing pain relief via weak electrical stimulation. Some pharmacies would sell over the counter patches that you can place over the affected area.
  • Mirror Box Therapy: Mirror box therapy is a practical behavioral training to condition an individual’s brain into thinking about the absent limb. Patients would put their stump inside the box, and they would see a reflection of their remaining leg or arm in the mirror. As individuals do their therapies, it tricks the brain into thinking that both limbs are present.

Phantom limb pain is something that you can quickly get over if you put your mind to it. Often a combination of any these therapies will work with relieving the pain. It would also help to change your lifestyle and put in more exercise into your routine.