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Phantom Pain: Amputation Injuries That Never Seem to Heal

By Dallas Personal Injury Attorney on July 27, 2020

Photo: Harry Parvin

Losing a limb is one of the most severe, life-altering types of injuries. Not only will you live with significant physical disability, but the pain and trauma associated with an amputation is horrific. You may assume that after your intense surgeries, your long physical therapy classes, and much needed time off of work, that your amputation injury would finally heal and you could try and move on with our life. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. You may be among the many amputation injury victims that develop phantom pain.

What is Phantom Pain?

The term “phantom pain” describes the pain that amputees experience in limbs that are no longer there. For example, someone who lost a leg might still experience sensations of pain where their foot used to be. Historically, this pain was believed to be psychological – but research has revealed that the brain seems to react to the perceived pain, and scans have shown heightened brain activity during phantom pain flare ups.

While the exact nervous reaction that causes the pain is still difficult to pinpoint, the underlying cause is understood to be tangled, confused, and damaged nerve endings. Phantom pain often shows up in the form of:

  • Shooting pains
  • Cramping
  • Crushing pains
  • Throbbing
  • Burning sensations
  • Pins and needles

The main indicator that you may have phantom pain is if you are feeling pain, whether it be on a high or low level, in the area that your limb used to be. It should feel as though your limb is still there, and in immense pain, as opposed to a painful sensation from the area that your limb was amputated from. If you feel pain in your stump, that may be an indicator of some other underlying issue.

Phantom Pain: Triggers

Those who develop phantom pain usually begin to feel its effects almost immediately following the loss of their limb. The pain can last from six-months to several years. It usually comes and goes, and can be triggered by certain factors, such as:

  • Smoking
  • Changes in weather
  • Sexual intercourse
  • Urination
  • Defecation

While some triggers can be avoided (such as smoking), others are impossible to avoid in normal life. The truth is, if you develop phantom pain, it could impact you every day of your life, no matter how hard you work to heal from your initial amputation injury.

How Phantom Pain Can be Treated

Unlike injuries that can be treated with pain medication, the source of phantom pain is entirely the nervous system – which requires a different set of treatment and management options. Some of the common medications used to treat phantom pain include:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories
  • Narcotic pain medications
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Muscle relaxants

Many alternative treatments have also proven to help some victims include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Massage
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
  • Music

The Importance of Filing a Claim

If you or a loved one have suffered a severe injury, especially if a limb (or limbs) were amputated, it is critical to retain legal counsel as early as possible, to help you prepare a claim for compensation.

In Texas, the statute of limitations on a personal injury claim is two years from the date of the injury. If the claim is with a government agency, the time is reduced to six months. The value of your claim is based on two factors:

Specific damages: Damages that are precisely quantifiable and tangible (such as the replacement of a destroyed vehicle, medical bills, lost income, and others)

General damages: Damages that are intangible but very real, such as pain, suffering, disfigurement, physical impairment, loss of consortium, and mental anguish

In the case of a lost limb, phantom pain is a genuine factor in calculating the general damages, but calculations are best undertaken by a top-level Texas personal injury attorney. At The Lenahan Law Firm, you will find a focused, dedicated, and highly capable team of lawyers that specializes in representing victims who have suffered severe injuries. We take an individual, personalized approach to each person we represent. We provide all the time, attention, and resources needed to pursue the best possible outcome for those we serve.

Call us today at (214) 295-1008 to schedule a free consultation. Our early involvement in your claim can make a difference in the value of the compensation you recover.

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