Managing Phantom Limb Pain

It’s not uncommon for an amputee to experience residual limb sensation, also known as phantom limb pain. Phantom limb pain is the feeling that the amputated body part is still there. The very real condition is described as feeling tingling, itching, twisting, cramping, pins-and-needles, stabbing pains, pressure, or a sense of fullness where an amputated body part once was.

Phantom limb pain is caused by the series of connected nerve pathways from each area of the body to the brain. As you remove a limb or a piece of the body, those pathways still exist, which confuses the brain because it’s no longer getting input from that area.

It’s no fun living with phantom pain, and while there’s no single solution for getting rid of it, there are several ways to reduce and relieve it.

Solutions include non-invasive therapies, such as heat, cold, manual manipulation, TENS, acupuncture, and mirror therapy, which is where the patient watches in a mirror while receiving physical therapy to revamp the brain’s neural pathways so it registers that the limb is no longer there. With these non-invasive therapies, it’s really trial and error. What works for one patient may not work for another.

Allen Orthopedic Labs encourages patients to treat phantom limb pain by envisioning the limb and firing the muscles in that limb. For example, stretch fingers and toes while imaging the limb responding.

If the above therapies don’t work, there are some minimally invasive procedures that may relieve your pain, including injections, nerve blocks, and surgical intervention.

Have more questions about phantom limb pain? Contact Allen Orthopedic Labs. As experts in the field, we’ll find a solution that works for you.