Nursing Implications Of Phantom Limb Pain

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Nursing Implications of Phantom Limb Pain An intriguing medical phenomenon known as phantom limb pain occurs when an individual undergoes a surgical procedure to amputate a limb. Phantom limb pain has a textbook definition of “a pain syndrome that occurs following amputation of a body part” (LeMone, Burke, Bauldoff, 2011, p.1330). The individual reports feeling sensations in the removed body part which can range from shooting pain, itchiness, tingling, burning sensations, or the feeling that the part is clenched tightly as in a fist. These individuals may also feel non painful sensations of touch, movement and heaviness. These sensations and pain are real to the patient even though the location of the reported pain is not due to the brain still receiving nerve impulses from the nerves that originally carried messages from the missing part. Historically, treatment options have been met with limited success. However, current research offers hope for patients suffering from phantom limb pain. The implication of this research has the potential to dramatically change how nurses care for patients suffering from this form of neuropathic pain This phenomenon was named by renowned American neurologist Silas Weir Mitchell in 1872 who noticed, while caring for Civil War amputees in Pennsylvania, that “thousands of spirit limbs were haunting as many good soldiers, every now and then tormenting them” (Krulwich & Abumrad, 2009, p. 298). Since then, the construct of phantom limb pain has challenged the assumptions regarding the relationship between body and mind because the pain reported by the amputees was thought to be imagined or hallucinatory. We now know that their pain is real; however, the etiology of phantom limb pain remains, for the most part, unknown and speculated. What is known is that there is an obvious kinesthetic connection between the brain and the body.

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