Friday, May 1, 2009

May 1 - Phantom in the opera...quiet down front!

Over the past few days I have been weaning myself off my pain med. It has some unpleasant side effects, but let's just say prune juice stock might bring the economy back on its own accord. The med, oxycodone, causes fuzzy thinking, especially when working on the computer and/or trying to do any sort of problem solving. It tends to make you not care about the pain rather than have any sort of local anesthetic effect. Too bad such pain relief can't be localized to the area that is affected, to paraphrase Pink Floyd: 'hey, pain med, leave my brain, liver, and bowels alone!'

Thursday morning after breakfast the phantom sensations bypassed the nuisance stage and drove right off the cliff onto the rocks much to the dismay of the startled driver. My phantom pain is generally where I had pain/discomfort after my first foot surgery; the osteotomies of the first metatarsal and heel and the fifth metatarsal where the peroneal tendon attaches to the bone. I do not feel any phantom pain where I had bone-on-bone contact at the end of the talus. That pain bothered me most prior to the amputation and it's great I feel nothing but air there now.

I believe today's owie increase was caused by the two PT sessions I subjected myself to; specifically, the more the limb is moved vertically the more sensations I have in it.

There is a great deal of information, alternative explanations and research into phantom pain. I believe it is the result of a combination of interrelated systems; the sight and touch senses, the severed nerves, the brain's cortex, and the synapses.

Here are a couple of scientific articles about this phenomenon. The first has a pretty grip on the current understanding of phantom pain:

I received several articles from one of my very helpful Twitter friends ( and fellow amputee teal64. Here are a couple:

The articles explain phantom pain as currently understood but only the amputee can describe the physical effect; it does vary but I've not talked to any amputees who say they not had any symptoms.

As I write this I feel that first metatarsal pin site has an electrical twitch turning on and off, stronger and weaker, and the same sensation but a little more numb in the heel. What helps? I've been trying different things like massaging the stump while flexing my left foot. Having a lot of sensory interaction also seems to help; in the hospital where I had more humans running around I don't recall having nearly as much phantom pain as long as the senses were being assaulted by the hue and cry of hospital life.

My plan is to try to tolerate this unpleasantness until I see the doc on June 10. I understand the next few weeks may be the worst for these pains and I should exercise some patience before embarrassing myself, like in those dreams where you are giving a speech only to become enlightened to the fact that tighty whities sans slacks are not the exactly the orator's choice for comfort.

I am taking the drug neurontin specifically for phantom pain relief but unless it is masking an even higher level of discomfort then it appears to be ineffective for me.

Tomorrow I hope to get out of the house with Jennifer and do a little shopping at Target for some PT exercise equipment and maybe have lunch outside at Calder's Buffalo Pub. Can't have a pint on the meds but I haven't been outside for more than an hour in over two weeks and I am in need of fresh air, sunshine, and the healing aroma therapy of pluff mud.

Summertime, and the livin' is easy


  1. You can also go to the movies. With the wheelchair we'll get prime seating!

    Gosh wish we were going to Disney. We'd get on all the rides first without waiting in line. The rock'n roll roller coaster might provide that sensory distraction you need. Nothing like an upside down quality scream with rock music blaring in your ears for distraction. :)

  2. Seems like the last time we went the lines weren't bad at all, I could have done the "Mission to Mars" all day long had my flight crew been willing. = ;-)