After an amputation, a patient in time may experience various forms of pain and other sensations coming from the site of the amputation. Sometimes it may simply be the feeling that the amputated limb is still present and functioning, but often it is a feeling ranging from discomfort to serious pain. The pain may be described as a shooting pain, and at other times it may be a stabbing pain, a cramping pain, or a burning sensation.
Typically, these phantom pains are associated with the loss of lower limbs, but the experience has also been reported with amputation of other appendages, such as with the removal of a breast, an ear, or a testicle. Even the removal of an organ can be connected to phantom pain. The appearance and degree of severity of pain vary among individuals.
Several theories exist on the causes of the phenomenon. One theory is that the severed nerves are trying to reconnect with the lost tissue, and these nerves sound the alarm of pain when the reconnection fails. Another theory believes the dysfunction lies within the peripheral nerve network. Some associate the dysfunction with the spinal cord, and others simply say it is a brain (mind) feedback system issue.
It is likely a brain feedback problem because hypnotherapy has proven so effective in managing the pain. Obviously, the function of limbs naturally occurring finds its automatic controls in the Middle (subconscious) Mind. With an amputation, the mind’s programming has become confused and is struggling, even panicking. This confusion and panic is conveyed with pain. Persistent discomfort tells us the mind is not able to adjust and reprogram its network for messages related to the missing body part. The brain knows changes need to be made; it just does not know how to make them.
Hypnotherapy provides the method for the mind to resolve the issue. The Middle Mind is going to solve the problem, but it needs some informational input in order to do so. The steps of hypnotherapy act on several levels. First, the very process of hypnosis can produce greater relaxation for the client. This relaxation in itself can begin to provide some relief from the pain. Second, the suggestions “inputted” during the hypnosis becomes new data or programming that the Middle Mind can use to create new maps for handling signals form the site of the amputation.
An additional benefit from the hypnotherapy relates to the very emotional trauma associated with the loss of a body part. Often, these operations are due to severe accidents or to serious diseases. In either case, a person experiences emotional upheavals before and during the amputation process. The aftermath of dealing with the loss creates whole new sets of mental and emotional challenges in addition to the physical challenges. All of these experiences combine to create forms of anxiety and depression. Some might use Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to describe the situation. Hypnotherapy offers the tools to deal with these issues, as well. We will discuss these anxiety issues in more detail in later sections of this book.
Because hypnotherapy includes broad applications in dealing with phantom pain, it becomes the perfect tool to help those suffering with the issue.