The aftermath of a New Mexico automobile accident can inflict such serious injuries that a hand, foot or arm requires amputation. One of the effects of losing a limb is that the amputee may feel pain from the amputated area. The body perceives pain from a limb that is no longer there, an occurrence known as phantom pain.
The Mayo Clinic provides some background on why phantom pain occurs. While the precise cause of phantom pain remains unknown, experts generally believe that the pain originates in the spinal cord and the brain. When a limb is lost, the brain loses input from that limb and has to adjust. Sometimes the brain may perceive pain as a way of conceiving that a limb is no longer present.
Research has also shown that when a part of the body is lost, the sensory system of that area will remap itself to perceive sensation from another part of the body. Because a hand or a foot is gone, the sensation that would ordinarily result from touching that lost limb will be felt somewhere else, like the face. Rerouting sensation in this way may also result in pain.
Other factors that might produce phantom pain include the following:
- Scar tissue at amputation site
- Damage to nerve endings
- Pain in the limb before amputation
- Pain in a remaining part of a limb
Treatment for phantom pain includes a variety of options. Often, doctors start out amputees with medications, like pain relievers or antidepressants. Treating physicians may attempt noninvasive therapies like acupuncture. If the condition persists, doctors might recommend invasive procedures like injections. Surgery is usually not recommended except as a last resort.
Phantom pain is just one challenge people who have lost a limb may face. Amputees may deal with other problems, such as psychological readjustment, as they rebuild their lives. If the amputation resulted from an injury caused by negligence, the amputee may be entitled to damages from the negligent party.