Phantom Pain and Limbs

Topics: Phantom limb, Phantom pain, Sensory system Pages: 4 (1430 words) Published: January 31, 2007
The loss of an arm or leg through amputation is not an easy experience to endure, and is even more difficult when the patient begins to feel uncomfortable sensations in their now missing limb. This feeling, referred to as "phantom pain" or "stump hallucination", is a frustrating sensation to an amputee. For some amputees, these phantom sensations may be no more than painless distractions of pressure, warmth, and cold that do not interfere with their everyday lives. Some patients have even reported having phantom pleasures; an "orgasmic" feeling in a missing limb. For the majority of amputees, about 50% to 80% (Sherman), they experience phantom pains that vary in classification from cramping, burning, tingling, shocking, shooting and stabbing pains. These episodes are severe enough to interfere with work, sleep and normal function, and do require some kind of treatment. Phantom pain can occur anytime, from immediately after an amputation to several years later. The powerful impression of a stable, intact self is taken for granted. But, it's a perception that's possible only because of the body image created by the brain. A significant part of that image is a mental map of the body surface generated by the cerebral cortex using the sensory signals it receives from the skin. Other regions of the cortex control other components, such as the position of muscles and joints, the intention to move, and also the visual viewing of the body's movements (New Scientist). Unfortunately, the brain's idea of its body can be distorted by the amputation of a limb. Since there is no visual feedback, initiating motor intention does not activate proprioreceptors (Harris). Over time, phantom limbs can be felt by the amputee to be overflexed, which causes a cramping pain. Based on this information, one of the most common questions is "if the inconsistency between the intention of the brain and the perception of the body's actions was to be resolved, could the phantom pain also be...

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