What to do About Phantom Limb Pain After Amputation

About 2 million people in the United States have lost a loss, and about 185,000 people undergo amputation every year.

People undergo amputation for a variety of reasons including trauma due to a car accident or military combat and certain medical conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. After amputation, most people — up to 80% — experience phantom limb pain.

What is phantom limb pain?

After surgery, most people experience some level of pain and discomfort that dissipates as the body and tissue heal. But for those who are recovering from an amputation, that pain often does not go away.

Some people perceive pain or a sensation in the body part that is no longer there, while others feel pain in the part of the limb that remains. Most often, amputations and subsequent phantom pain occur in the arm or legs, but sometimes women who have had mastectomies feel pain in their breasts as well.

Also, you may not feel pain but itching, pins and needles, pressure, or heat or cold in the area of the missing limb.

If you experience phantom pain, you may be embarrassed to discuss it with your doctor, but you don’t have to be. At Neuropathy Treatment Clinics of Texas, we’re familiar with the condition, which is a common one among amputees, and one that we can treat. So you should feel comfortable discussing any pain and discomfort you feel in your existing or missing limbs with our compassionate medical team.

No one knows for sure what causes phantom limb pain after amputation. Some think it’s a rewiring of your brain. When the brain stops receiving signals from the missing limb, it sends pain signals indicating that there is something amiss.

Treatment options for phantom limb pain

The treatment options for phantom limb pain depend on the severity, location, and nature of your pain. Common effective treatment options include:

Over-the-counter medications

OTC pain relievers such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen can help with pain relief. It’s important to take these medications as directed. Overuse may cause stomach issues and bleeding.

Massage and acupuncture

Alternative therapies, such as massage for the remaining part of your limb and acupuncture to release pain-relieving chemicals into your body, can help — especially if you don’t want to take medications.

Opioids

Drugs such as morphine and codeine can help relieve pain but only if used as directed. If you have a history of substance abuse, opioids are not an option for you.

Antidepressants

While antidepressants such as amitriptyline and tramadol are commonly used to treat depression, these drugs can ease nerve pain by dulling the pain-signalling chemicals your body sends.

Mirror box therapy

This is a type of physical therapy where you perform exercises in front of a mirror that makes it look like your limbs are intact. This exercise helps rewire your brain to help you to accept that the limb is not there, and it relieves the pain.

Nerve stimulation

We may use nerve stimulation, also called transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), to treat a variety of chronic pain issues. Electrical currents are sent through your skin to disrupt pain signals before they register in your brain.

Spinal cord stimulation

This treatment is also used to treat back pain that has not responded to other treatments. With this procedure, we insert electrodes along your spine that deliver a continuous electrical current to help relieve pain.

Are you or a loved one experiencing phantom limb pain after an amputation? Call Neuropathy Treatment Clinics of Texas in Addison to find the treatment options that will provide you with relief.

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