How is phantom limb pain treated?

Treatment is usually based on the amount of pain the patient is feeling, and multiple treatments may be combined. Usually, the best approach is to combine multiple treatments. Some treatments include:

  • Heat application.
  • Biofeedback to reduce muscle tension.
  • Relaxation techniques.
  • Massage of the amputation area.
  • Surgery to remove scar tissue entangling a nerve.
  • Physical therapy.
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) of the stump.
  • Neurostimulation techniques such as spinal cord stimulation or deep brain stimulation in extreme cases.

In some instances, medications may need to be administered in combination for optimal pain control. Medications, which are used to diminish and control phantom pain, include:

  • Opioid and non-opioid analgesics.
  • Neuroleptics.
  • Anticonvulsants.
  • Tricyclic antidepressants.
  • Beta-blockers.
  • Sodium channel blockers.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/14/2016.

References

  • Smith DG, Skinner HB. Chapter 11. Amputations. In: Skinner HB, McMahon PJ. eds. Current Diagnosis & Treatment in Orthopedics, 5e. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2014. accessmedicine.mhmedical.com Accessed 3/14/2016.
  • Nikolajsen L, Springer JS, Haroutiunian S. Chapter 26. Phantom limb pain. In: Benzon HT, Rathmell JP, Wu CL, Turk DC, Argoffand CE, Hurley RW. Practical Management of Pain. 5th ed. Copyright © 2014 by Mosby, an imprint of Elsevier Inc.
  • Hsu E, Cohen SP. Postamputation pain: epidemiology, mechanisms, and treatment. J Pain Res. 2013; 6:121–136.

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