Prosthetic & Orthotic Information Resource

Understanding Pain

Moving Forward

After the Amputation
There is an array of physical modalities that can be useful while engaged in the war against phantom pain; we should consider both traditional and non-traditional methods during the search for solutions.

Acupressure & Acupuncture
Traditional Chinese techniques based on the concept that energy travels along 'meridians'. Blocks in the flow of energy along these pathways can result in discomfort or even disease. Acupressure Specialists are said to promote energy flow by pressing on these 'acupoints', Acupunture is similar in that slender needles are used to interact with the various body points.

bonatis nerve pathway

The Bonati Institute’s Nerve Pathways help trace radiating pain back to its source in the spine.

Understanding Pain Pain is both a physical and emotional experience caused by real or potential injury or damage to the body. It is often best described as a complex three-way warning system. First, acute pain warns of injury. Second, pain warns against further injury by causing the body’s movements to withdraw from the source of injury. Finally, pain leads to a period of reduced activity, enabling injuries to heal more efficiently.
Pain is often difficult to measure because the severity of the pain does not always reflect the severity of the injury. Some people feel extreme pain from relatively small injuries, while others show little or no pain even after suffering a severe injury. Pain can also be present even though no injury is apparent, or pain can linger long after an injury appears to have healed.

Communicating the nature of pain:
Since each person perceives pain a little differently, and responds to pain differently, it is essential that you communicate as much about the exact nature of your pain to medical professionals, including:

Location of the pain:
Where is the pain? Does the pain spread or move to any other place? Can you point to it?

Quality of the pain:
What does the pain feel like? Is it sharp, dull, burning, searing, aching, cramping, or shooting?

Intensity of the pain: Is the pain constant, or does it come and go? A 1 - 10 pain scale is a reliable tool to help you measure your pain and to set goals for relief. How would you rate the pain on a scale of 1 - 10? (1 being no pain at all and 10 being the worst you've ever had).

Mechanics of the pain:

Therapies with Medicine
The complexity of human pain often requires a combination of pain therapies with medicine and without medicine to achieve relief. In addition to the body’s own mechanisms, humans have devised many different ways to manipulate the body’s ability to control pain. Drugs that relieve pain, known as analgesics, usually interfere with pain impulse transmission in the nervous system. Narcotic analgesics, such as codeine, have chemical structures that are similar to the pain-blocking neurotransmitter endorphin. Other drugs that relieve pain alter the way damaged nerves transmit information. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, are analgesics that reduce pain by inhibiting the synthesis of prostaglandins, the body chemicals that intensify pain and cause inflammation.
Medications prescribed by a physician may be used alone or in combination with other medications and can be administered in a variety of ways, including:

Managing your medication

Pain After the Ampuation

All of the recent studies also support the importance of looking at pain as a multi-dimensional rather than a one-dimensional construct. This means that the impact pain has on an individual’s life is influenced by its frequency, duration, intensity, bothersomeness, and whether it is episodic or continual. All of these different factors make pain very difficult to measure and study accurately.

Unfortunately, there are no magic treatments to fully eliminate pain; however, physicians are emphasizing prevention with symmetrical gait training, proper back care, good sitting posture, and good lifting habits.

Treating Pain Levels

For now, until research offers improved pain treatment methods, it is a matter of managing the issue rather than curing it.  The important thing is to educate patients in the options available to them so that they can restore their functions and attain a better quality of life.

For more information on the various therapies to combat amputational pain, contact the ACA office toll-free at 1-888/AMP-KNOW (888-267-5669).

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