Phantom Limb Syndrome Can Lead to Chronic Pain
There are a lot of reasons why someone may need to visit the doctor. However, one of the most common reasons is chronic pain. Chronic pain can be defined in many different ways, but any pain that does not remit quickly is termed chronic. For some people, their pain could last for months to years. Chronic pain can lead to some different medical complications. According to information that has been published by the Institute for Chronic Pain, these are:
- Mental health conditions, such as depression, which stem from a feeling of hopelessness.
- Undue family stress that comes from mounting medical bills.
- Chronic headaches that can come from difficulty sleeping at night.
- Challenges that stem from dependence and addiction to opioid and narcotic pain medication.
- Possible job loss or disability
For those who have suffered limb loss, the chronic pain can be taken to a completely separate level. One of the many issues that can arise when someone has suffered an amputation injury is something called phantom limb.What is Phantom Limb Syndrome?
For many people, it is this chronic pain that is the most challenging to manage. One specific type of chronic pain that can develop following an amputation is called phantom limb syndrome. For those who may not be aware, phantom limb syndrome is the term used to describe the pain that develops in the limb that has been amputated. Undoubtedly, this sounds confusing because the limb is no longer present. Some important points to remember include:
- Even though the limb is gone, some nerves used to connect this limb to the spinal cord and the brain.
- These nerves are still present and run from the stump to this same location in the brain.
- This part of the brain is dedicated to the limb that was lost.
- The brain still interprets the arrival of signals from nerves in this location as pain in the limb that was lost.
The pain can be devastating, confusing, and frustrating. Therefore, it is important to discuss some of the complications of phantom limb syndrome and the treatment options that are available.
Watch YouTube Video: Phantom Limbs Explained. This video explains the sensations you feel in body parts that are no longer on your body.What Kind of Complications Can Develop?
When someone suffers from phantom limb syndrome, several different complications can develop. However, the most common complication is chronic pain. This chronic pain can be incredibly frustrating, and people may not know what to do. Many different chronic pain syndromes might develop as a result, and one of the most devastating is called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), also known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). Possible symptoms include:
- Severe, intractable, shock-like or burning pain in a specific area of the body.
- Possible changes in hair or nail growth in this same part of the body.
- A hypersensitivity to touch, temperature, and pressure.
- Alterations in the temperature of the affected limb.
- Possible infection at the injury site.
- Swelling, bleeding, and rupture of stitches.
Several studies have shown that people rate the pain from RSD as some of the most severe imaginable. When someone has phantom limb syndrome, the nerves can become damaged as a result of the amputation and the consequences that stem from it. Sometimes, this nerve damage can lead to the development of RSD. This disease develops when the body’s inflammatory response damages the nerves and scrambles the signals that they send. The brain interprets these signals as pain, leading to the development of the disease.What are the Treatment Options?
There are several different treatment options for those who suffer from chronic pain, particularly that from phantom limb syndrome or RSD. It is important to review all of these options because a successful management strategy depends on a well-rounded approach. Important parts of this strategy include:
- Emotional Support: Without a doubt, people who suffer from chronic pain develop mental health disorders at a high rate. To prevent this, meeting with a counselor regularly is important.
- Medical Management: It is vital to take medications when needed to control the symptoms. Even though people worry about becoming addicted to these medications, they can be used judiciously.
One specific therapy that has proven effective for people with phantom limb syndrome is called mirror therapy. First used about 20 years ago, this works by tricking the brain into thinking that the limb that has been amputated is still there. By placing the healthy limb in front of the mirror and moving it, the mind will believe that the amputated limb is still present. When the healthy limb moves pain-free, the brain may think that the amputated limb is moving pain-free as well. This can lead to resolution of the intense pain that people feel.
Ultimately, someone who suffers from the chronic pain of any kind following an amputation should be aware of the possible diagnoses, which could include phantom limb syndrome. This is important because of the potential complications which this can lead to, including Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. In addition to finding the most appropriate medical care available, it is a good idea to meet with a personal injury attorney in Sacramento. A comprehensive treatment plan involves a well-rounded approach, and the injury deserves to have every detail examined. You and your family may be entitled to financial compensation.
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I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento Car Accident Lawyer. Chronic pain may be challenging to manage. If you or a loved one has developed chronic pain following a car accident, please call me today for free, friendly advice at 916.921.6400 or (800) 404-5400.
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