Getting to the Bottom of Phantom Limb Pain

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Phantom limb pain occurs after one of your limbs is amputated and you feel sensations as if the limb were still there. These sensations are most intense soon after the amputation and they tend to decrease gradually over time. A pain management doctor can help you to manage your symptoms so that you can work on your recovery, regain strength, and perform your favorite activities.
Symptoms of Phantom Limb Pain
The symptoms of phantom limb pain include sensations of hot or cold, numbness, tingling, or prickly sensations in a limb that is no longer a part of you. You may also experience unusual sensations such as feeling like the missing toes, fingers, foot, or limb are moving. You might feel like the limb is still there, but in an awkward position or as if it is getting shorter as time passes. These symptoms may worsen when your stress increases or when you are sick with an acute illness. A pain management physician may gently touch you to see if any particular pressure points trigger or worsen your symptoms.
Causes of Phantom Limb Pain
Phantom limb pain is the result of miscommunication between your nerves and brain. The sensations can be made worse by fatigue and illness. If you have an ill-fitting artificial limb, this can also worsen phantom limb pain. Changes in the weather may trigger your symptoms. Infections, new injuries, and poor circulation also cause new or worsening phantom limb pain.
How Phantom Limb Pain Is Treated
Pain management doctors offer several solutions for treating phantom limb pain. Anti-inflammatory medications may help if the pain is caused by swelling or injuries in the parts of your body that are still there. Anti-depressants may be helpful if your pain is triggered by stress or anxiety. Your doctor may also offer physical therapy to help strengthen the limb you still have. Ill-fitting artificial limbs may be refit.
Who Is at Risk for Phantom Limb Pain?
Anyone who has had a limb amputated is at risk of phantom limb pain. People with traumatic injuries and amputations are more likely to experience these sensations. Phantom limb pain often occurs at the same time as other traumatic conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. A pain management doctor can offer the treatment you need to reduce or even eliminate these frustrating and uncomfortable sensations.