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How Is Phantom Pain Treated?

How Is Phantom Pain Treated?
Christian J. Amendt

After the amputation of a limb in California, you may experience a strange and often frustrating sensation called phantom pain. When phantom pain occurs, you experience discomfort that seems to be coming from the limb that is missing. The exact cause is unknown, and doctors once believed that it was a purely psychological phenomenon. Further research has indicated that phantom pain is, in fact, a neurological condition of the central nervous system, i.e., the brain and spinal cord.

According to the Mayo Clinic, understanding more about the nature and origin of phantom pain has helped doctors and researchers to develop more effective treatment modalities. As a last resort, your doctor may recommend surgery to stimulate the brain if no other treatments prove effective.

Initially, however, your doctor will likely prescribe or recommend medications. These may include medications that affect the nervous system, such as anticonvulsants, antidepressants or a special class of anesthetics that blocks pain signals directly in the brain. Narcotics and over-the-counter pain relievers may also be effective. However, you should only take the former according to your doctor’s strict instructions to reduce the risk of addiction.

If medications do not work, the next step is typically a trial of noninvasive medical therapies. One such therapy is electrical stimulation of the spinal cord through tiny electrodes. The doctor inserts these along your spine to deliver a mild electrical current. Another therapy is acupuncture, which involves inserting very thin needles at strategic points along the body. It is safe when performed by a qualified practitioner, and the National Institutes of Health have found it to be effective in relieving chronic pain.

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.

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