People who have lost a limb, such as an arm or leg, may experience pain in body parts that are no longer present. This is called phantom pain or phantom pain. Although it is mostly reported after amputations resulting in loss of hands, feet, arms and legs, it has also been reported in other tissue and organ losses, such as after mastectomy, where breast tissue is removed. While phantom pain sometimes goes away on its own, in other cases it can be severe and persist for a long time. The chances of recovery are greater if treatment is started early.
Why Does It Happen?
The exact cause of phantom pain is not known, but there are several theories about it. Nerves in the spinal cord and brain reorganize when signals from the amputated arm or leg are lost. As a result, pain signals may occur, indicating that something is wrong with the body. Another sign of the reorganization of the nerves is that when an existing part of the person is touched, such as the shoulder or lip, it may feel as if the missing limb is being touched. Experiments on monkeys have shown that there are significant changes in the sensory cortex of the brain after limb loss.
Phantom pain can be caused by damage to the nerve endings and scar tissue in the amputation stump.
People who have pain in that organ before amputation and those with pain from an amputation stump are at higher risk for developing phantom pain.
How Does Phantom Pain Feel?
Pain is a highly personal experience, and phantom pain is described in different ways by different people. In 60-80% of amputees, various still feelings about the amputated limbs occur, and most of these sensations are painful. Feelings such as burning, stinging, pinprick, sprain, crush, electric shock may occur. Apart from pain, the person may feel that the part that no longer exists is moving, itching, being exposed to heat or cold. It can receive sensations such as touch and pressure.
Complaints are usually temporary. It happens in attacks. The severity and frequency of attacks may decrease over time. Factors such as stress, anxiety, weather change can trigger pain.
There is no specific medication for phantom pain. However, it is known that drugs used in other problems such as epilepsy and depression reduce phantom pain complaints. Some people may benefit from morphine-derived pain relievers.
Electrical stimulation, vibration therapy, biofeedback , mirror therapy , acupuncture, cognitive-behavioral therapies are non-drug treatments used in the treatment of phantom pain.
In mirror therapy, watching the mirror image of the healthy side creates the illusion that the lost limb can be moved. The person can thus move the amputated limb out of potentially painful positions.
Spinal cord stimulation and brain stimulation are interventional methods that can be used in the treatment of pain. If the damaged nerve endings in the amputation stump are thought to be the cause of pain, revision surgery can be performed.