Dealing with Limb Loss
The amputation of a limb is a life-changing experience. It is not only a tremendous physical loss, but it can also be emotionally devastating as well. Everybody deals with these feelings in different ways. A key element to the mental as well as the physical recovery process is acceptance when facing changes in our lives. Learning to accept change will help you to be emotionally healthy, enabling you to lead a more fulfilling life.
One thing to keep in mind is that it is not just the amputee who initially suffers; their family and friends also will struggle to cope with new feelings and anxiety. A key to getting back into life after amputation is to put things in perspective and deal with one thing at a time. Some individuals will feel like they have to constantly “prove” they can do things. This leads to additional stress and can be unhealthy. Enjoy the successes and accomplishments, no matter how small, and don’t dwell on obstacles or setbacks.
Phantom Pain or Sensations
Phantom limb pain or sensation is the feeling that the amputated limb is still present. Virtually all amputees have phantom sensations to some degree; a much smaller percentage has phantom pain. Phantom pain, significant enough to cause a patient to seek medical care, occurs in approximately 5 to 10% of the amputee population. Phantom limb pain appears to be more common in patients who lose a limb at an older age, but can also occur in patients who are younger. Phantom limb pain may develop immediately after injury or may develop weeks, months, or even years after the injury.
The pain may vary from a continuous cramping, aching, and burning to an electric shock-like sensation. Stress, anxiety, fear or fatigue will usually increase the patient’s discomfort. There are many different types of therapies that have attempted to relieve this pain, ranging from acupuncture to complicated surgical procedures. The best initial treatment is to determine the factors which increase the pain and to eliminate these factors. Psychological and environmental factors can play a major role in the genesis of pain behavior. Therapies such as massage, wearing a shrinker, and looking into mirrors are conservative treatments that often work.
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