Amputation: A Phantom Limb

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Amputation often causes patients to experience sensory illusions that the limb is still present. This is often called a phantom limb. This sense of having a phantom limb is a natural and frequent development during the recovery of an amputation. (1) (2) It is reported that at first, the phantom limb feels normal in size and shape, but in time this illusion of the size of the phantom limb usually becomes smaller.(1)
Phantom limb pain is a painful sensation experienced in a body part which is no longer part of the body, often due to amputation.(3) Individuals also reported that tingling as well as various types of pain have occurred, and these sensations may eventually disappear or may persist as cramping, shooting, burning or crushing sensations.(1) (4) Various studies report that phantom limb pain occurs in between 0,4-90 percent of cases.(1) (2) (4) (5) (6) Recently it was found that phantom limb pain occurs in approximately 50-85% of patients several months or years after the amputation, rather than immediately after the amputation.(1) (4)
Studies have found that phantom limb pain is closely connected with the somatosensory cortex.(2) (4) There is evidence that amputation of a limb leads to cortical reorganization and that phantom limb pain may be related to incongruency between motor intention, somatosensation and visual feedback. (4) The cortical contributions towards phantom limb pain come from various studies that show neuroplastic changes in the primary somatosensory and motor cortices after amputation. (4)

Treatment of phantom limb pain is difficult and no specific method of treatment has been confirmed.(1) (4) (5) The treatment of phantom limb pain includes medication, various forms of physical treatment, nerve blocki...

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...antom limb pain. While mirror therapy makes use of visuomotor stimulation and is found to beneficial dependent on the type of pain experienced, illusory touch makes use of visuotactile stimulation and is said to be effective in those patients who generally experience pain on movement and it is suggested that the point of stimulation is imported in the effectiveness of the sensations experienced in the phantom limb. It is also evident that more extensive research needs to be done on both mechanisms of treatment and that the role of occupational therapy in the use of these treatment modalities is not well documented despite their being a clear role for occupational therapy in the treatment of phantom limb pain. Most studies document the use of mirror therapy in occupational therapy with regard to movement of a limb rather than its use in the treatment of sensation.