Phantom Fighters: Coping Mechanisms of Amputee Patients with Phantom Limb Pain – A Longitudinal Study

Phantom Limb Pain (PLP) is a phenomenon commonly observed in patients who underwent limb amputation. It is a sensation of pain in the anatomical location of the absent limb, which the patient feels is frozen in a specific position. In the process of coping with the pain many psychological factors may play a part in reducing the agony.

In her research, Professor Daniella Margalit, from the Department of Orthopedic Rehabilitation, ShebaMedicalCenter, Ramat Gan, Israel and the Department of Psychology, ArielUniversity, Ariel, Israel, studied a group of patients who went through lower limb amputation at two points during the rehabilitation process. Findings, published in the Open Journal of Orthopedics 2013 vol. 3 Scientific Research Publishing,(View Original Post) showed an association between PLP pain and emotional coping mechanisms. In the initial phases after amputation, denial of the loss was associated with lower pain sensation, but six months later optimism was associated with less pain. Thus, denial, though often considered a maladaptive response, may be beneficial to patients at risk for PLP during the initial phase of recuperation.

Given the importance of helping patients with lower limb amputation cope with their pain, awareness of the effect of these mental processes by both medical staff and family members may enable acceptance of these processes and thus facilitate patients’ rehabilitation.

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