Sunday, 8 July 2012

Phantom Limb Sensation/Pain

Up to now I haven't mentioned Phantom Limb Sensation/Pain. It's a peculiar thing that occurs when you have an amputation. Firstly you have the sensation that the limb is still there. In my case I can still feel the whole of my leg, my foot and toes. Strangely I am able to swing my leg from side to side, but can't flex the knee to straighten it (the phantom limb is bent back at the knee)
Also I can't flex the ankle or wiggle my toes.

Secondly I have phantom limb pain, mainly, in the foot. The pain is in the form of pins & needles. It's always there and sometimes, mainly later in the day, it gets pretty excruciating.

There is very little known about Phantom Limb Pain. But it would appear that the brain and nerve endings that have been severed retain some sort of memory. During the last weeks prior to the amputation, the tumours were squeezing and putting pressure on the main nerves running up my leg, and I had pins & needles in my lower leg and foot, hence the phantom pins & needles.

Having said all that, there are things that can be done to address the problem. There are two types of drugs that are used, and I have been put on one called Gabapentin. Gabapentin provides significant pain relief in about a third of people who take it for or chronic neuropathic pain. So hopefully in the not to distant future it will start to work for me. It can take 2-3 months to work. Failing that there are other alternative drugs to try.

One other treatment is called "Mirror Box" therapy.

It requires you to place a mirror between your legs, so that when you look in the mirror you see a reflection of your good leg, which now appears to be the amputated leg.
The following video demonstrates the proceedure.

By moving your good leg/foot/toes it appears that your phantom leg is moving, and by mentally moving your phantom limb in unison with your good limb, it tricks your brain into thinking the phantom limb is moving. By doing a series of movement exercises twice a day for 4-6 weeks you can free up the locked elements of your phantom leg. In my case I am working on unlocking the toes, ankle, and finally the knee.

I have only just started this treatment so I will update the blog as and when changes start to appear.

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