If you have had a limb amputated, you may be suffering from phantom pain. The discomfort, which feels as though it is originating from the missing limb, may be due to damage suffered by your nerve endings.
Phantom pain is sometimes described as a burning, throbbing, or stabbing discomfort. The pain, which may begin soon after a limb is removed, can require treatment before it starts to diminish.
Here are some of the therapeutic treatments that may be used to alleviate phantom pain.
Although there are no specific medicines geared solely toward the alleviation of phantom pain, there are medications that can help relieve the discomfort. Here are a few of them:
- Narcotics. Although narcotics are rarely prescribed for continual long-term use, the drugs can help lessen phantom pain. Still, the dosage must be carefully monitored by your doctor to avoid an addiction.
- Nerve blocks. A nerve block medication can be injected into the spine to block the sending of pain signals to the brain.
- Antidepressants. An antidepressant can alter the relaying of the pain signals to provide phantom pain relief.
- Anesthesia. Some oral anesthesia medications can block pain signals that are coming from damaged nerves. However, anesthesia can also be injected directly into the remaining portion of limb.
- Anticonvulsants. An anticonvulsant can help calm inflamed nerves to block or slow the phantom pain signals.
Each medication that is used to treat phantom pain may have a different traditional use. In addition, some of the drugs may have significant side effects, such as fluid retention that can cause issues with use of a fitted prosthetic device.
Non-invasive Therapeutic Techniques
Some methods used to relieve phantom pain are non-invasive. Here are a few examples:
- Electrical nerve stimulation. The nerves can be stimulated with electrical currents that enter through the skin. The device that supplies the currents is attached near the end of the residual limb. The currents interrupt the signals of pain before they are received by the brain.
- Heat and cold therapy. Ice or heat may be applied to the remaining portion of limb to reduce pain sensations.
- Meditation. Some doctors encourage their patients to envision their residual limb as being whole. As the patient imagines stretching the limb and its appendages, the phantom pain may subside.
- Massage. The residual limb can be massaged to help lessen the discomfort.
- Acupuncture. Acupuncture may encourage the release of endorphins to offer pain relief.
If you are suffering from phantom pain, schedule an appointment with a physician in your area to discuss amputee treatment options.