What causes Phantom Pain ?

The debate over what causes phantom pain rages on.

Here are the some of the "suggested" causes of phantom pain (the list is compiled from suggested causes discussed by amputees via the amputee listserv).

1. Prior experience with pain prior to amputation - If you have had continued pain with joints or muscles etc prior to amputation, this is thought to have a "phantom" effect post amputation.

2. Incorrect surgical procedure - Unless you live in a heavily populated area or in a part of the world that has a high population of amputees, chances are your surgeon (especially if traumatic amputation) may not be wholly experienced in post-traumatic amputations.

Whilst it is somewhat unfair to point the finger for such things at the inexperienced surgeon (at least your life was saved); incorrect surgical procedures have caused some amputees problems for many years after the original trauma.

3. Climatic conditions - Sorry can't blame anyone for this one ! Changes in weather, particularly related to changes in air pressure and tempreture can dramatically affect levels of phantom pain. Other than moving to a different climate this is a hard one to avoid.

4. Stress - The cause of just about every ailment known ! Stressful lifestyles lead to kinds of ailments and if your an amputee, phantom pain is just another to add to the list.

5. Inactivity - Remaining in a relatively same position for long periods of time. Office workers especially, poor posture really helps bring on those phantoms. Make sure you are sat in the best possible position to keep blood flow to the amputated limb to a maximum.

6. Periodic illness - Colds, flu, strep throat, infections, virus'es can increase the level of phantom sensation, sometimes to unbearable levels. This is particularly noticeable for people who only notice phantom pain when ill. Not much you can do except either pump your self full of drugs and sit this out. But don't wait too long, 48 hours of constant phantom pain needs prescription medication. More often than not phantom pain will cause you to tense/tighten up therefore perpetrating even more phantom pain. In cases such as this usually a one time shot of morphine or other signifcant pain killer will do the trick,(as it did with me when I had Strep Throat C). See a doctor either way.

REMEMBER - Increased blood flow to the amputated area will (in many cases) reduce the amount of pain. Therefore constant excercise, whether stretching, running, walking, bike riding or lifting weights can provide relief from phantom pain. Any other supplement or product that increases blood flow will have similar effects.

REMEMBER - The easiest and worst way to combat phantom pain to fill yourself full of medication. There are MANY alternatives, medication (especially the heavy addictive types) should be a LAST RESORT, not the first option.

Drug dependency can actually cause phantom pain to increase, rather than decrease.

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