How to Alleviate Phantom Limb Symptoms

5 Techniques That Help Phantom Limb Symptoms

Phantom limb pain, sometimes referred to as simply “phantom pain,” is a form of chronic pain that feels as if it is coming from a part of the body that is no longer there.

Once believed to be a psychological phenomenon brought on after an amputation, recent research proves that it is real pain originating from the brain and spinal cord.

Phantom limb pain should not to be confused with phantom limb sensation, which is simply when someone with a limb removed reports that it sometimes feels like the amputated limb is still there. Almost all people with an amputated limb are thought to experience at least occasional phantom limb sensation.

While some people may find that their phantom limb pain gets better with time, others may have a much more difficult time managing their phantom pain. Fortunately, there are a lot of treatment options.

Causes of phantom limb pain

While the exact cause is still not clear, phantom pain is thought to be caused by mixed signals coming from the brain or spinal cord. The parts of the brain connected to the nerves of the amputated limb tend to show activity when the person is feeling phantom pain when tested in either a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or positron emission tomography (PET) scan.

Some research indicates that after an amputation, the brain will try to remap the sensory circuitry to another part of the body, essentially moving the nerve information to a still-existing body part. When the still-existing body part is touched, the brain or spinal cord may interpret an amputated body part as having been touched, which generally results in pain.

In addition, some activities or conditions are more likely to trigger phantom limb pain:

  • Touch
  • Angina
  • Urination or defecation
  • Sexual intercourse
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Changes in barometric pressure
  • Exposure to cold temperatures

Phantom Limb Symptoms

Generally speaking, the symptoms will appear within the first week after amputation. But in some cases, symptoms may be delayed by months or even longer.

Since phantom limb pain is a chronic pain condition, the most common symptoms include, but may not be limited to:

  • Shooting pain
  • Stabbing pain
  • Cramping
  • Crushing pain
  • Throbbing
  • “Pins and needles” sensation
  • Burning Pain

The 5 Treatment Techniques

The treatment for phantom limb pain varies depending on the severity of pain and the exact mechanisms playing a role, but these five techniques are some of the most effective:

Mirror Box Therapy:

This is a type of physical therapy where the patient watches themselves in a mirror in an effort to remap the brain’s neural pathways to essentially remind the brain that the amputated body part is no longer there

Nerve Cuff Stimulation:

This is placing a nerve stimulator on the nerves connected to the amputated body part. This nerve stimulator sends a pleasant signal throughout the nerves to try to replace the phantom pain sensation.

Local Injection Therapy:

The physician will inject a pain-blocking agent at the site of the amputation. This can help the painful signals involved in phantom pain.

Non-Opiate Analgesic:

Prescription pain medication can help slow or limit the phantom pain sensations.

Deep Brain Stimulation

A surgeon will place tiny electrodes onto the brain to use electrical impulses to help attenuate pain.

How Ketamine Infusions can Help treatment Phantom Limb Pain

Ketamine Infusions: Ketamine, an NMDA-receptor antagonist, can help restore nerve passages and reset connections when infused at a low dose. Many patients are finding relief through the clinical use of Ketamine.

Ketamine was first approved by the FDA as an anesthetic but has been used as pain management and depression treatment since 2006. Infused at a low dose from an IV into the bloodstream, Ketamine has been shown to improve pain and depression symptoms in 75 percent to 80 percent of patients.

New Treatments To Help Phantom Limb Pain

If you or a loved one is suffering from phantom limb pain and has questions about Ketamine treatment, we invite you to call us and schedule a free phone consultation to decide if Ketamine infusion therapy for Phantom Limb Pain is right for you. Contact:512-387-5920, 512-200-7311.


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