The "Phantom Limb" is a mind-blowing concept in which an amputated limb still feels pain and/or other sensations. When I first learned about this concept I was very shocked, but also very intrigued because I have a few friends who are Wounded Warriors and have had one or more of their limbs amputated due to combat injuries. For this reason I felt the need to further research the concept to learn more about what their experience is like living with an amputation.
When I looked up "Phantom Limb" on WebMD.com, the definition I received was the following: "Phantom limbs pain refers to mild to extreme pain felt in the area where a limb has been amputated." That definition alone is quite shocking, but I was even more taken-back when I continued reading. The article states that this pain can either decrease or INCREASE over time, and when the pain lasts over 6 months, it is likely that it will be permanent. I find this fact to be extremely sad because not only has the victim experienced pain and grief at the fact that they have had a limb amputated, but no where is a possibility that they will experience pain where that limb once existed for the rest of their lives.
The explanation for this phenomenon is that even though the limb has been removed, the nerve endings at the site of the amputation continue to send pain signals to the brain even though the limb is no longer there. Sometimes the brain's memory of pain in that area is retained, and the victim may feel that pain even without the injured nerve signals.
Although treatment for phantom limb pain is not always effective, it is determined based on the victim's level of pain, and several treatments are often combined and repeated. Some of these treatment methods include the following:
- Heat application
- Biofeedback to reduce muscle tension
- Relaxation techniques
- Massage of the amputation area
- Injections with local anesthetics and/or steroids
- Nerve blocks
- Surgery to remove scar tissue entangling a nerve
- Physical therapy
Ratini, Melinda. "Phantom Limb Pain After Amputation: Causes & Treatments." WebMD. WebMD, 28 Apr. 2015. Web. 09 June 2015.