Phantom Limb Pain and Hypnosis: Phantom limb pain is caused by the nerves that would normally communicate energy to an amputated or missing limb. Hypnosis can help rewire the brain.
Phantom limb pain is a very interesting phenomenon. It is the sensation that the amputated or missing limb is still attached to the body, and is actually moving with other body parts. Phantom pain happens when the nerves that would normally communicate energy to the missing limb cause pain. The pain sensations are generally described as burning sensations or other strange sensations that can be very agonizing for some people. Some experience temperature change in the missing limb, itchiness, or the sensation that the limb is in an uncomfortable position and causing great discomfort.
A variety of treatments to alleviate phantom pain are available including medication, physical treatment, nerve block, neuromodulation, and surgical treatment. Mirror therapy is another option for pain relief, and based on what we know about the subconscious mind, it makes a lot of sense. You may recall, from previous posts, that the subconscious mind does not discriminate between actually doing something and pretending or thinking about doing something.
In mirror therapy, a mirror box is used to trick the brain into thinking, and seeing, that the missing limb still exists. The patient places the good limb in a position that is reflected back in a way that makes the brain see two matching limbs. The patient then makes movements with the good limb, and the brain sees the reflected imagine of both limbs moving. Through the use of this artificial visual feedback, it becomes possible for the patient to “move” the phantom limb into a comfortable position.
Hypnosis is often used for pain management and in the case of phantom pain, it seems clear to me how valuable it can be to practice “seeing” the missing limb moving and responding in a way the helps to alleviate the pain. Again, the subconscious mind does not know the difference between doing and pretending. For those who are not visual, they can improve the degree of pain they experience by engaging in the “feeling” sense of the limb moving. The power of our mind is phenomenal, and hypnosis can expedite the desired outcome in many cases.