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Banishing Phantoms: Treating Phantom Limbs Essay

778 words - 4 pages

Limited understanding of phantom limbs hinders the effectiveness of treating phantom sensations and pain. There are several theories as to the causes of phantom limbs only two main areas central and peripheral nervous system. The main three treatments are cognitive-behavioral therapy with extinction, pharmaceuticals and mirror therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy retrains the brain to use extinction to perceive the limb is gone. Pharmaceuticals are the most common way of treating conditions and easier to show evidence. Mirror therapy is a newer and becoming commonly associated treatment for phantom limb pain. Cognitive-behavioral therapy shows promise with less risk of side effects by the two persuasive and evidence backed treatments.

Cognitive-behaviour therapy is based on the brain’s ability of neuroplasticity and learning to retrain the brain for extinction of the phantom limb pain. This treatment helps to train for effective coping and pain management in order to gain control (Moseley & Flor, 2012). This control allows for a patient to improve their lives by giving them the power over themselves. Cognitive-behaviour therapy leads to the ability for the brain to recognize the loss which is paramount for extinction. Extinction is the desired end result and may be made more effective by the use of cannabinoids (Moseley et al., 2012). There is limited information on the effectiveness and little documentation on the specific effectiveness of the cannabinoid by itself in the treatment of phantom limbs. Cognitive-behaviour therapy does not require drugs, but may prove more effective with one that does not even make the list of pharmaceuticals.

Pharmaceuticals are the most common and easily documented treatment options. Medications include anticonvulsants, ketamine and morphine (Weeks, Anderson-Barnes & Tsao, 2010). Anticonvulsants gabapentin and carbamazepine has benefits in treating some pains where other pains show no benefit (Weeks et al., 2010). Opioids show the most effectiveness, although there are some who experience no relief at all from opioids (Weeks et al., 2010). The side effects of pharmaceuticals particularly opioids can be harmful, especially when taken long term. Opioids is the most commonly prescribed treatment, they may hinder the cortical reorganization (Weeks et al., 2010). There seems to be a bias of pharmaceutical use to commonly prescribed medications in Weeks et al. (2010) study where the study by Moseley et al....

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