If you’re struggling with phantom limb pain, you’ll no doubt be looking for ways to help manage your pain. Herbal remedies may be something worth exploring, so read on for more information…
If you’ve had an amputation, there’s a chance you may feel pain in the limb or body part that’s been removed. This is surprisingly common for amputees, and is often referred to as ‘phantom limb pain’.
As you’ll already be dealing with the complexities of life as an amputee, such as having to seek compensation for loss of a limb, managing phantom limb pain can prove to be difficult. This is especially true as there aren’t any specific drugs that are designed to help with the symptoms.
That being said, there are plenty of alternative methods of managing general pain, including the use of herbal remedies. So, do they apply to deal with phantom limb pain as well? Let’s take a closer look!
What Causes Phantom Limb Pain?
The exact cause of phantom limb pain isn’t entirely clear to researchers. One potential explanation for the condition is that the nerves in your spinal cord and brain ‘rewire’ when they lose signals from the part of the body which has been amputated. This means that pain signals are sent through, which is your body’s natural response when it senses that something isn’t right.
Studies have also shown that, following an amputation, the brain might try to remap that part of the body’s sensory circuit to another part of the body. So, because the amputated area can no longer receive sensory information, that information is redirected elsewhere.
Damaged nerve endings, scar tissue at the point of amputation, and the physical memory of pre-amputation pain may also explain why phantom limb pain might occur.
What Does Phantom Limb Pain Feel Like?
Phantom limb pain is likely to differ from person to person and is dependent on a number of different factors. These include what body part was amputated and when the amputation took place.
The symptoms someone might experience when they are suffering from phantom limb pain include, but are certainly not limited to:
- Burning sensation
- Shooting ‘pins and needles’ pain
- Twisting pain
- Crushing pain
- Pain similar to an electric shock
What Sort of Treatment Will a Doctor Provide?
If you’re suffering from chronic phantom limb pain, your first port of call should always be to speak to a medical professional. They may choose to explore different treatments, such as:
This is where you watch in a mirror while receiving physical therapy. This helps to re-map the brain’s neural pathways to register that the limb is no longer there.
Local injection therapy
A physician will inject a local pain-blocking agent at the site of the amputation.
Deep brain stimulation
A surgeon places tiny electrodes on the surface of the brain to help attenuate pain with electrical impulses.
An electrical device is placed near the nerves traveling to the amputation. Instead of blocking the nerve signals, a pleasant signal is sent through the nerve.
Are Herbal Remedies Suitable for Managing Phantom Limb Pain?
If these treatments aren’t effective, there are no specific prescription medicines for managing phantom limb pain beyond typical pain relievers. This means herbal remedies are a safe and effective alternative to try.
Unlike many manufactured medicines, herbal remedies don’t have the potential to be addictive and have very few adverse side effects. This means they are among the best natural ways to relieve pain.
So, which herbal remedies should you use for phantom limb pain?
Lavender oil isn’t just used to help people relax and ease their anxiety – it’s also a very effective herbal remedy for relieving pain. It has pain-relieving properties and is also an anti-inflammatory. This means it is well suited to treating the symptoms of phantom limb pain.
In fact, a 2015 study found that lavender essential oil – when diluted – provided pain relief that was comparable to the prescription medication tramadol.
Rosemary is another essential oil that could be used for treating phantom limb pain. It has been proven to be a remedy for muscle and bone pain. It also helps to reduce inflammation and relax muscles.
Though not necessarily related to phantom limb pain, one study involving stroke survivors with shoulder pain found that rosemary oil was a very effective pain reliever. In fact, participants in the study experienced a 30 percent reduction in pain after using a rosemary oil blend for just two weeks.
Peppermint oil has long been known for its anti-inflammatory properties and is commonly used as a topical treatment for aches and pains.
The one thing to keep in mind regarding peppermint oil is that it should never be applied to broken skin. It can cause allergic reactions, so it’s important to carry out a spot test before you decide to use it to help manage phantom limb pain.
Not every herbal remedy needs to be applied externally. When ingested, ginger helps to reduce pains and reduce inflammation. That’s great because it’s incredibly easy to incorporate it into your diet!
You can include ginger in smoothies, teas, or stir-fries, or you can choose a ginger supplement.
Capsaicin, which is present in chili peppers, is a key ingredient in creams and patches that can give you relief from pain. When applied, the substance causes a very mild burning or tingling sensation which plays an important role in pain management.
Researchers tend to believe that capsaicin helps to reduce the skin’s sensitivity to pain by working on the nociceptor fibers, which carry pain signals.
Are You Looking to Use Herbal Remedies to Manage Phantom Limb Pain?
As you can see, there are plenty of herbal remedies you can use to help manage phantom limb pain, so it’s certainly worth testing them out to see what works for you.