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Phantom Limb Pain

Managing Phantom Limb Pain: Tips from Kansas City Prosthetists

Prosthetics / May 2, 2018

By Natalie Lenners, MPO, CO

Phantom Limb Pain

After you have part of your leg or arm amputated, there’s a chance you could feel pain in the limb that is no longer there.  This is known as phantom limb pain. 

For some people, the pain will go away on its own. For others, it can be long lasting and severe. Phantom pain is often described as burning, twisting, itching, cramping, or pressure. Most amputees will have some feelings connected to their missing limb within 6 months of surgery.  Nearly 80 percent of amputees have experienced phantom pain of some degree.

At Horizon Orthotic & Prosthetic Experience, our Kansas City prosthetists help amputees get back to living their lives with high quality custom prosthetic solutions. Keep reading to learn more about managing phantom limb pain.

What Causes Phantom Limb Pain?

Unlike pain that is caused by an injury directly to a limb, phantom pain is thought to be caused by mixed signals from your brain or spinal cord. This is important because phantom pain must be treated differently than other types of pain.  

Some people find that certain activities or conditions will trigger phantom pain in their limb. Some of these triggers could include: touch, sexual intercourse, angina, cigarette smoking, changes in barometric pressure, and exposure to cold. Some of these triggers can be avoided, but for others you will just have to understand and treat accordingly.  

Treating Phantom Limb Pain

Treating phantom pain takes a multi integrated approach. Several medications in different categories in combination with non-medical treatments seem to be the most effective.  

For managing phantom pain, you will take medications specifically used toward interrupting the pain signals in your brain or spinal cord, as well as using certain non-medication therapies which work on your brain’s interpretation of these signals. 

A list of several medications and non-medication treatments used for treatment of phantom limb pain can be found here: https://www.amputee-coalition.org/limb-loss-resource-center/resources-for-pain-management/managing-phantom-pain/

What You Need to Remember

Phantom limb pain is common for most amputees, especially after surgery. This pain can be managed and reduced to allow you the quality of life you enjoy and deserve again.  Work closely with your healthcare team, including your prosthetist, to create and maintain the pain management plan that works the best for you. 

Our team of Kansas City prosthetists at HOPE is willing and ready to help you manage your phantom limb pain.  Call us at 913-956-0050 or send us a message to set up your free consultation today!