What is Phantom Pain And How Do You Manage It?

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After an accident results in an injury, patients are understandably focused on their recovery and getting back to their normal day-to-day lives. This process is often more difficult for those who lose limbs. According to a recent journal review, every year, 1.7 million people live with limb loss. Furthermore, 60% to 80% of amputees feel these sensations of phantom limb pain. Which brings us to the question, what exactly is phantom pain? In today’s blog, our team will answer this question, as well as explore the cause of phantom pain and how to manage it.

What Is Phantom Pain?

According to the Mayo Clinic, “phantom pain is pain that feels like it’s coming from a body part that’s no longer there. 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 signs of phantom pain involve:

  • Constant or recurring pain
  • Pain that feels like burning, crushing, cramping, shooting, throbbing, pins and needles, or stabbing

“The most accurate way to describe phantom pain is to take an ice pick to your fingernails repeatedly. If you’ve ever burned your hand, imagine doing that all the time. The feeling is similar to that,” says Patrick Daniel, personal injury attorney and founder of Patrick Daniel Law Firm.

Cause of Phantom Pain

While there are multiple reasons for limb loss – diabetes, infections, serious accidents – understanding the cause of phantom pain is a bit more complex. The precise origin is uncertain, but experts believe it is related to the brain and spinal cord. Phantom pain may be a reaction to mixed signals from the brain. Following the loss of a limb, parts of the brain and spinal cord stop having input from the non-existent appendage and erratically calibrate. The outcome can set off the human body’s alarm system, otherwise known as pain. Remapping the lost limb’s sensory circuitry to a different existing body part may also occur, and cause feeling or pain in the other area. The physical memory of pre-amputation pain in the impacted area, nerve ending damage, and amputation scar tissue are thought to play a part in phantom pain as well.

How To Manage Phantom Pain

Fortunately, managing phantom pain is possible through home remedies, support groups, medication, therapies, and/or surgery (brain stimulation). Phantom pain treatment is not a one size fits all, so what works for one person may not work for another. Medications may include N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonists, anticonvulsants, over-the-counter pain relievers, narcotics, or antidepressants. On the other hand, therapies may involve acupuncture, spinal cord stimulation, ‘mirror box,’ or repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS).

Innovative phantom pain treatments, such as virtual reality therapy and prosthetic legs that perceive touch, are being developed and tested every day.

Have You Experienced An Injury Due To A Faulty Product Or Unsafe Conditions?

If you’ve suffered from phantom pain and are considering taking legal action, our experienced personal injury attorneys at Patrick Daniel Law are here to provide the support you need during this difficult time. We have an extensive and successful history of winning cases for our clients. Contact us or call us at (713) 999-6666 to schedule a free consultation today.

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