Each year, approximately 185,000 people undergo various amputations in the U.S. While the reasons for amputations vary, one thing remains consistent—80% of those amputees experience phantom limb pain. Bulow Orthotic & Prosthetic Solutions wishes to educate you on what to expect when you should tell your doctor and how you can treat it.
What to expect and why it happens:
Phantom limb pain is the burning, twisting, itching, and uncomfortable pressure or pain that seems to come from your amputated limb or extremity. For many amputees, this experience comes immediately after amputation. It can also happen spontaneously when you’re fatigued or from using your prosthesis more than usual. The sensation can last a few minutes, or it can stretch into days. Every person feels phantom limb pain differently. Sadly, the cause is still unknown, but it is thought to come from the spinal cord and brain. After a limb is gone, those nerves that were once connected are now gone, which means the brain and spinal cord loses the signal from the nerves. The brain could potentially be readjusting and searching for input from that amputated area, which results in the body triggering pain signals – telling you something is not right.
When you should tell your doctor or prosthetist:
If the pain is persisting for several days or it’s interrupting your recovery and daily life, talk to your doctor or prosthetist. Amputees often feel embarrassed about their phantom limb pain, so they’re hesitant to bring it up to their doctors. We would like to assure that you have nothing to worry about! Your prosthetist has dealt with this before, and your doctor will believe you when you say you’re feeling pain where your old limb used to be. They can work with you to find a treatment that addresses what is happening in your mind and body.
How you can treat it:
There are several different treatment options you can pursue to treat phantom limb pain. Your doctor may prescribe certain medication in conjunction with non-medicinal treatments, as this can help interrupt the pain signals in your brain. Bulow Orthotic & Prosthetic Solutions can also help you find relief. Treatments such as massage therapy and acupuncture can help relieve persistent phantom limb pain. Other amputees have reported relief through virtual reality, music, mirror box therapy and biofeedback.
Remember, you are not alone in your battle with phantom limb pain, as this common condition impacts a large percentage of amputees. Our expert staff understands what you’re going through. Reach out to discuss your various treatment options today!