Phantom limb pain refers to the pain sensation experienced following amputation of a limb, wherein the body feels as if the missing limb is still existing. Typical phantom sensations include tingling, prickling, numbness, feeling hot or cold, feeling the missing toes or fingers moving, or feeling like the limb is getting shorter (telescoping). Over time, these sensations tend to go away, although not completely.
Although the precise cause of phantom limb pain is unknown, it may be the brain’s attempt to rewire sensory signals following amputation. Factors known to increase phantom limb pain include tiredness, infection, stress, pressure on existing limb, improper fitting artificial limb and poor blood flow.
An early intervention leads to better outcomes for phantom limb pain. Self-care measures for phantom limb pain include relaxation, taking the mind away from the phantom limb and oral pain medications (e.g. acetaminophen, ibuprofen, aspirin). Sometimes keeping the remaining limb part warm, or moving the same, or wearing a compression stocking, or rubbing the stump may improve symptoms.
Medications that may be prescribed for phantom pain include antidepressants, anticonvulsants, antipsychotics, opioids, muscle relaxants and imidazoline-receptor agonists. Electrical nerve stimulation may help alleviate pain in some cases. Other treatment strategies include regional sympathectomy to interfere with specific nerves in the perception of pain, hypnosis, acupuncture, massage and exercise.
The treatment of persistent phantom limb pain is, however, quite challenging.
STEM CELL THERAPY
Patients, who do not respond well to conservative treatment for phantom limb pain, may benefit from stem cell therapy. Stem cells are primitive cells that can undergo differentiation to form different types of cells in the body, such as bone, blood, cartilage, tendon, ligaments, etc. These cells are responsible for healing tissue damages by generating new healthy cells. However, with age, the body loses its ability to attract enough stem cells to the site of injury. In this regard, stem cell therapy delivers a high concentration of stem cells to the affected area to promote natural healing.
Starting from the 1960s, stem cells have been utilized to treat leukemia patients through bone marrow transplants. At present, stem cells are well recognized as useful intervention agents for controlling chronic pain conditions. Several studies in both animal models as well as humans have demonstrated the ability of stem cells to modulate pain after injury or degeneration.
Stem cell therapy involved the extraction of the patient’s stem cells from bone marrow or fat deposits. These cells are then concentrated in the laboratory and injected back into the damaged area. The cell-handling procedures ensure that these cells retain their stem cell-like properties. Moreover, allogeneic stem cells, such as amniotic derived stem cells, can be obtained from FDA-approved tissue banks for stem cell therapy.
The benefits of stem cell therapy as compared with traditional surgery are as follows:
repair and regeneration through natural healing processes
no incisions or trauma caused to tissues
no need for general anesthesia
negligible recovery time
absence of immune rejection or other serious side effects.
McJunkin T, Lynch P, Deer TR, Anderson J, Desai R. Regenerative medicine in pain management. Pain Medicine News Spec. 2012:35-38.
Nguyen R, Borg-Stein J, McInnis K. Applications of platelet-rich plasma in musculoskeletal and sports medicine: A evidence-based approach. PM&R. 2011:3(3):226-250.
Ohno T, Kaneda H, Nagai Y, Fukushima M. Regenerative medicine in critical limb ischemia. J Atheroscler Thromb. 2012;19(10)883-9.
FIND A DOCTOR
CONTACT US AT R3 STEM CELL CLINICS FOR AN EVALUATION OF STEM CELL THERAPY FOR YOUR PHANTOM LIMB PAIN, AND TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THIS CUTTING-EDGE TECHNOLOGY. CALL (844) GET-STEM TODAY!
The most revolutionary regenerative medicine treatments now being offered include amniotic and umbilical stem cell treatments. These are FDA regulated and contain growth factors, hyaluronic acid, cytokines and stem cells.