Recovery from any surgery includes some element of pain; it’s part of the healing process that diminishes as the body heals the affected area. Pain experienced after amputation brings unique challenges, including a side effect known as phantom limb pain.
Phantom limb pain is a sensation experienced at an amputation site. Although the limb is no longer there, the nerve endings continue sending pain signals to the brain as if it was. Additionally, the brain might be experiencing pain memories regardless of what signals the nerves are sending.
In addition to pain, patients may have other sensations at the amputated site, including tingling, cramping and feelings of hot and cold. Essentially any sensation that the area might have experienced before the amputation surgery can continue after. Each patient’s sensation experience is different, depending on the person’s pain tolerance level. While the symptoms often decrease or disappear overtime, the initial experience can be alarming.
A variety of treatment options exist for addressing phantom limb pain including:
- Heat application
- Physical therapy
- Massage of the amputation site
- Relaxation techniques and biofeedback for reducing muscle tension
- Steroid injections
- Nerve blocks
- Neurostimulation and nerve stimulation procedures
- Prescribed medications
If after amputation surgery you are experiencing phantom limb pain, talk to your doctor who can discuss treatment options.