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Phantom Limb Pain

Phantom Limb Pain

All you need to know about
Phantom Limb Pain

After having a portion of your arm or leg amputated, you may experience discomfort in the limb that is no longer there. Phantom limb pain is the term for this. It’s most frequent in the arms and legs, but it can also occur when other body parts, such as the breast, are removed.

Some people’s pain will subside on its own. It can be severe and long-lasting for others. However, you can keep it to a minimum if you notify your doctor as soon as possible so that treatment can begin.

Don’t think your doctor will think you’re making it up. People who have lost a limb frequently experience this. Within six months of having an amputation, the majority of people will experience sentiments about their missing leg.

Symptoms of Phantom Limb Pain

Phantom limb pain may be brief or continue for days. Pain severity and frequency normally diminish in the first six months after a limb loss. Even two years following amputation, up to 8 out of 10 persons have phantom pain.

The phantom pain could be described as follows:

  • Aching or burning.
  • Clamping, squeezing, and vice-like gripping
  • Tingling or itching
  • Stabbing or shooting
  • Throbbing.
  • Twisting.

Aside from discomfort, you may experience the following sensations from a missing bodily part:

  • Movement
  • Temperature
  • Pressure
  • Vibration
  • Itch

Diagnosis

Your doctor will perform a physical check and request tests to rule out infections as a cause of residual limb pain. Blood tests and imaging scans such as ultrasounds are examples of these testing.

If your doctor is unable to find a reason, phantom pain may be diagnosed solely on your symptoms.

Causes

Phantom pain is common after a limb is amputated. After an amputation, a wound can take three to six months to heal. The pain usually appears months or years later.

Experts believe that phantom pain is caused by a miscommunication between the nerve system and the brain. The nerve connections from the periphery to the brain remain intact when a body component is severed. Even if the severed piece has been removed, the brain can misunderstand the information it receives or perceive the impulses as a pain experience.

Causes of residual limb pain

Residual limb pain is caused by issues with the remaining portion of the limb (the stump). Among them are:

  • Bruising.
  • Osteomyelitis (bone infection) or bone spurs.
  • Damage to the nerves (neuropathic pain) or inflammation (neuroma).
  • Poor blood circulation.
  • The prosthetic doesn’t fit well.
  • Injuries from pressure (bedsores).
  • Infections of the skin or wounds.

Treatment

The goal of phantom limb pain treatment is to alleviate symptoms. Among them are:

  • Prescription pain medications or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs).
  • Antidepressants.
  • Anti-epileptic drugs.
  • Beta-blocking drugs.
  • Muscle relaxants are drugs that relax the muscles.
  • Injections

Electrical impulses sent to the nerves, brain, or spinal cord may aid to relieve pain. Among them are:

  • Neurostimulation.
  • Stimulation of the spinal cord.
  • Electrical nerve stimulation via the skin (TENS).

Mirror therapy for phantom limb pain

Mirror therapy has been shown in studies to help with phantom pain. For around 20 minutes each day, you view the undamaged leg in a mirror while conducting movement exercises. The brain is tricked into thinking there are two healthy limbs because of the mirror.

This information is encoded in the brain over time. For the pain to subside, you may need to repeat the exercises. The brain does not perceive pain in the phantom limb because it does not believe the limb is missing. This exercise can be taught to you by a physical therapist.

Alternative therapy for phantom limb pain

These alternative methods can help with phantom pain as well:

  • Acupuncture.
  • Biofeedback.
  • Massage.
  • Mindfulness or meditation exercises.

Complications of phantom limb pain

Chronic phantom pain can have a negative impact on your quality of life. It can also interfere with sleep. Anxiety or depression may occur. Medications and counselling with a therapist may be beneficial.

Risk Factors

Phantom limb pain can affect anyone who has had an amputation. When they aren’t wearing a prosthetic device, some people report that the pain is worse.

The following reasons may cause phantom limb pain:

  • Angina (chest pain due to low oxygen to the heart).
  • Temperature or barometric pressure changes.
  • Constipation.
  • Shingles are a type of roofing material (herpes zoster).
  • Physical contact or sex.
  • Smoking.
  • Stress.

Prevention

According to some research, combining spinal and general anaesthetic during limb amputation surgery may reduce the chance of phantom limb pain.

Phantom limb pain usually gets better with time. It may eventually go away completely. Chronic pain can make it difficult to enjoy life, but it can be managed with a combination of drugs and other treatments.

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