What is Phantom Limb Pain?
Phantom limb pain is defined as painful sensations perceived as originating from the missing limb. 50-80% of all amputees suffer from phantom limb pain. The experience of phantom limb pain lies along a spectrum of severity. Patients report their phantom sensations as ranging from no or painless sensations to mild cases where pain is felt sporadically for a couple of minutes to constant debilitating pain that prevents normal discourse of daily life. For most people, the pain is intermittent and manageable. However, 10-20% suffer from excruciating pain. Such chronic pain deeply affects their quality of life and in some extreme cases results in suicide.
Phantom limb was first documented in 1552 by French surgeon Ambriose Pare. Ever since the research community continues to search for contributing factors to explain its occurrence. Though there are no conclusive theories that entirely explain Phantom Limb Pain, there is a consensus regarding the multifacetedness and complexity of the problem. Scientists attribute the origins to peripheral, central and psychological factors. These findings point towards the need for a personalized and holistic approach in treating Phantom Limb Pain.
A Large Number of Patients Won’t Respond to Present Treatment For PLP
However, the complexity of diagnosing the origin discourages healthcare systems in actively treating the condition. Even today, several healthcare providers settle to ‘treating’ phantom limb pain by merely educating the patient about the syndrome and the several treatments available regardless of their effectiveness.
Based on these theories, new treatments are constantly being developed. The absence of sufficient controlled trials and failure of these treatments to alleviate pain leads to their discreditation. Moreover, their ineffectiveness in treating chronic conditions mandates the need for further research and more clinical trials.
As the developer of novel PLP treatment—Neuromotus, in this space we aim to interpret scientific research on phantom limb pain into easy-to-understand and intuitively clear articles. Watch this space for monthly updates on more insights into phantom limb pain.