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Yanke Bionics - What to Expect

Commonly asked questions about phantom limb sensations

  • What is phantom limb sensation? When people have an amputation, they usually have feelings in the limb that is missing. There may be tingling, a prickly sensation, or a numb feeling. The missing limb may feel hot or cold. It may feel like the toes or fingers are moving, that the limb is in a funny position, or there may be a feeling that the limb is still there. These feelings are called 'phantom limb sensations.' The sensations are very real; 'phantom' refers to the fact that the limb is missing. The important thing to know is that phantom limb sensations are perfectly normal, and almost all people with amputations experience them to some degree.
  • How long does phantom limb sensation last? How long phantom limb sensation lasts is different for everyone. In some people the phantom limb sensations go away in a few months. For most people with amputation the sensation decreases in how often it happens and how strong the sensation is during the first few months, but never goes away fully-even after 10 or 20 years some people still feel like their limb is still there. People with amputations become used to their phantom limb sensations and many grow to like their phantom limb sensations. Phantom limb sensations can go away in many different patterns. For most people with amputations the sensations simply become weaker and happen less often. Sometimes the upper part of the limb will fade away and the foot or hand sensation will remain. Sometimes it feels like the limb is getting shorter--this is called 'telescoping.'
  • What about phantom limb pain? All people have some pain in their residual limb right after the amputation. This is surgical pain and it is unavoidable. Fortunately, this pain goes away in a few days or weeks, just like any other surgical pain. Pain in the missing part of the limb is called 'phantom limb pain.' Many amputees feel some phantom limb pain. It is usually described as a sharp or shooting pain. Sometimes it is an achy pain or burning. The pain is usually worst just after amputation and decreases rapidly in the first few weeks after surgery. In many amputees phantom limb pain may persist as an infrequent, short spell of pain lasting a few seconds or a few minutes. Only a small number of patients have ongoing, severe phantom limb pain.
  • Is phantom limb pain treatable? Yes! There are several ways to treat phantom limb pain. One of the easiest and best treatments is massage. Massaging the residual limb helps to lower phantom limb pain and can control the problem. Other simple treatments include tapping, friction rub, and compression socks. Phantom limb pain is often linked with stress. Many people find that if they can relax and lower their stress level, the phantom pain subsides. Therefore stress reduction techniques can help treat phantom limb pain. If the phantom limb pain is bad enough that it is interfering with sleep or a person's ability to do things, then there are a number of medicines that can help with the treatment of phantom limb pain. Your doctor will be happy to discuss these with you.

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