It is an unfortunate circumstance of our world that there are times limbs or parts of our body are removed. Whether a soldier is injured in the course of battle or infection has set so far within the system, doctors sometimes need to be proactive to save the rest of the patient. Republic Pain Specialists know this can be difficult to work through as rehabilitation and emotional work may need to be done, but there is also some ongoing pain, with Phantom Limb Pain, that may need our attention.
What Is It?
Phantom Pain is attributed, most often to limbs, but can be any part of the body, that is no longer there. Patients will express real feelings of pain, discomfort, and other sensations in the portion of the body that was removed, even for years after the surgery took place. According to the Mayo Clinic, “doctors once believed this post-amputation phenomenon was a psychological problem, but experts now recognize that these real sensations originate in the spinal cord and brain.” The brain is trying to register the fact that signals are disrupted from the missing part of the body and process it as pain. This pain can be described in a number of ways, including stabbing, cramping, crushing, or burning. Feeling pain from the area is handled differently than patients who are “only” feeling the presence of the missing limb, without any discomfort.
It is estimated that 8 out of 10 patients experience phantom pain to some degree after a limb removal. There is some evidence that patients who had considerable pain in the limb before surgery are more likely to continue experiencing similar levels of pain after the limb is removed. This could be because the brain is used to that feeling and continues to transmit those signals. Additionally, if the remaining portion of the limb is still feeling some sort of limb, it is likely the missing portion of the limb will still have this phantom pain. This may have to do with abnormal nerve endings or additional trauma.
How We Can Help
Because the pain associated with Phantom Limb is nerve based, we have some solutions we can help with. There are a few nerve blocks that we can administer that will halt the signals the nerves send to the brain and area processed as pain. These blocks can be given a few times a year, allowing for more relief in many of our patients. There is also some evidence that regional anesthesia given before a limb is surgically removed may help patients experience less phantom pain after the surgery because the anesthesia reduces the pain the body feels ahead of time. Acupuncture may be a solution for some patients who are experiencing Phantom Pain as well. In some cases, patients may feel relief with standard, over-the-counter pain medication.
If you need help discussing options before or after a limb removal, contact our team at Republic Pain Specialists, today. If you have had a limb removed, you will want to remove as many distractions as possible as you work on therapy and other parts of your life, we can help reduce or remove that pain, significantly.