I am frequently asked about my experiences with phantom pain and how I deal with it. I must begin by admitting that while I have flare-ups, my experiences with phantom pain definitely fall into the "mild" category. Many of my friends suffer debilitating pain issues, so compared to them, I am extremely lucky!
Research is confirming what I have
suspected to be true for awhile. The severity of phantom pain is
strongly correlated to the circumstances involving the amputation. Mine
was planned and completed within a controlled environment with a
prescribed protocol to minimize nerve damage. The surgical precision
used to remove my limb reduced the frequency and severity of my phantom
issues. Those who lost their limb from a traumatic incident, such as a
car accident or gun shot wound, tend to have more intensive phantom
Despite knowing how my friends suffer, it is difficult
to remember that I am fortunate when I am in the throes of a phantom
episode. Although I remain thankful that they only occur a handful of
times a year, I am miserable when it is happening. My recent limb issues
have resulted in increased phantom pain incidents.
phantom pain feel like? Although it manifests differently for each
amputee, mine always feels the same. Imagine that your left toe is being
squeezed in a vice and twisted in a clockwise direction. Simultaneously
somebody is pulling the toenail off while darts are being thrown into
the heel. The outside of the ankle is being struck by a hammer, just
below the joint bone, and the entire foot will go into a cramp (just for
good measure). Looking at my leg it is easy to see that this torture is
not actually occurring. Yet despite the absence of my leg, these strong
sensations often last for hours.
Sometimes massage helps to
eliminate some of the pain. I've also found heat and soaking in the
bathtub to be somewhat beneficial for short periods of time.
Unfortunately, when the pain is at its worst, the only thing I can do is
try to occupy my thoughts and remind myself that it won't last forever.
I realize that I'm lucky, but it is certainly difficult to remember
when it feels like my foot is being subjected to Taliban style torture.