Phantom Limb Syndrome Phantom limb syndrome was first described by Ambroise Pare in 1552. Pare, a French surgeon. Pare noticed this phenomenon in soldiers who felt pain in their amputated limbs. Then in 1871, Mitchell coined the term “phantom limb”. Phantom limb syndrome is the illusion sensation that a limb still exists after it is lost through an accident or amputation. The causes of phantom limb syndrome is that although the limb is no longer there, the nerve at the site of the amputation continue to send pain signals to the brain thinking the limb is still there.
Phantom limb syndrome occurs only in amputees, phantom sensations may also be perceived in people who have survived a stroke and lost function of certain body parts and people who have had a spinal cord injury. However, there are three different descriptions of phantom limb syndrome: phantom limb pain, stump pain, and phantom limb sensations. 1. Phantom limb pain is described as a pain that one feels as if it’s occurring in the amputated limb. 2. Stump pain is a discomfort at the surgery site. 3.
Phantom limb sensation is the feeling that the person feels thinking that the missing body part is still there. Medical doctors believe that the pain affects only those who have had a limb amputated. Even though there are some individuals who are born without a limb also experience phantom pain. However, this pain is more common among those who have had a limb surgically removed. As I indicated above, phantom pain can also be experience among people who have had stroke or are paralysis; the pain may appear in an area of the body where there is no feeling.
In addition to pain the symptoms of phantom limb that some people experience are sensations such as tingling, cramping, heat, and cold in the portion of the limb that was removed. The area where the limb as been amputated is mild to extreme pain; Phantom limb sensations usually will disappear or increase over time, but when phantom limb pain continues for more than six months, the prognosis for improvement is poor. The onset pain after amputation usually occurs within days or weeks, although it may delay months, or maybe even years.
People may feel a variety of sensations from the absent limb; although the limb may feel completely intact regardless of its absence. According to researchers, phantom pain was a psychological thing, and not a physical problem of a person. This was long before modern diagnostic tests existed. They believe that a person begin to feel phantom pain before amputation and is most likely to experience phantom pain even after amputation. The occurrence of phantom limb pain is probable in 50–80% of all amputees. Phantom limb feeling is more common and occurs in all amputees at some point.
There is no known connection with age, gender, or which limb is amputated. Studies have shown a decreased numbers of phantom limb syndrome in those who are born without limbs opposed to actual amputees. Phantom limb syndrome is thought to be secondary to the brain, although phantom pain is presumably a result of a response to amputation injury. Phantom limb pain may occur in non amputees with spinal cord damage causing loss of sensation. The brain is responsible for processing the sensations from the missing limb.
The treatment for phantom limb is usually determined based on the person’s level of pain, and multiple treatments include relaxation techniques, massage of the amputation area, surgery to remove scar tissue entangling a nerve, physical therapy, medications, including pain relievers, antidepressants, etc. Unfortunately, phantom limb pain is generable intractable and chronic; once it develops it is rarely improved by present medical treatments. Destructive surgical procedures are also of limited use. Because they can be effective for a few months, but the pain always returns, and frequently worsens.
The exact cause of phantom limb syndrome is unknown. Presumably, the sensations are due to the brains attempt to reorganize sensory information following the amputation. The brain must essentially rewire itself to adjust to the body change. Phantom limb pain is considered to be one of the most interested and difficult clinical pain syndromes. Phantom limb syndrome is not always described as painful; however the sensation of the missing limb after amputation is particularly common after surgery. Treatments for individuals with phantom limb pain are few.
The treatment may involve the participation of neurologists, pain specialists, physical therapists, neurosurgeons, or rehabilitation specialists. Treatment for phantom limb pain involves the use of medications, nonmedical, electrical, and surgical therapy. For example, to treat the pain, neurologists and pain specialists may prescribe pain medications. To help facilitate and maintain mobility, the physical therapists would give special exercises as well as massages. The neurosurgeons may perform surgery to place electrical nerve stimulators in the spinal cord to help treat the pain.
There is no best treatment to cure the symptoms. However, medications such as muscle relaxants, and antidepressants may be tried to ease the pain. Even the use of electrical nerve stimulation, or ultrasound, and acupuncture may be used in helping to reduce pain. Phantom limb pain may lead to the feelings of depression or anxiety. It may lead to death or self-harm. The individual may require psychological help or treatment by a psychiatrist. These those who experience phantom limb syndrome should get involve in social activities or get into support groups to help them relief depression.