Could You Freeze Out Phantom Limb Pain?

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Phantom limb pain, or the feeling of painful sensations at the amputation site, affects a large percentage of amputees. Diagnosing and treating this condition can be difficult, but a new treatment might offer welcome relief to amputees. Find out what cold blast treatment is and how it can significantly reduce pain related to phantom limb syndrome.

What Is Phantom Limb Pain?

After having a limb amputated or an organ removed, an estimated 80 percent of patients experience mild to severe pain and discomfort at the amputation site. Known as phantom limb syndrome, this condition can include a wide range of sensations. Most patients experience varying levels of pain, but others feel cramping, heat, and even itchiness. No matter the severity of the symptoms, phantom limb syndrome isn’t easy to manage.

A number of phantom limb pain treatments exist, since this condition tends to express itself differently in all patients. Some amputees respond well to acupuncture or nerve stimulation. Others need minimally invasive treatments, like steroid injections or nerve blocks. Patients with more severe cases often require surgical options like a neurectomy or brain stimulation.

How Does Cold Blast Treatment Work?

In Atlanta, Emory University researchers have been hard at work exploring the possibilities of cold blast therapy. Known as cryoablation, or extreme cold, this treatment freezes both nerves and scar tissue in place at the amputation site. During the study, 20 participants underwent a 25-minute long treatment session during which researchers inserted a cryoablation probe at the amputation site.

After the cold blast therapy, participants’ remaining nerve endings stopped sending pain signals to the brain. As a result, the pain from phantom limb syndrome lessened significantly. For patients seeking a minimally invasive answer to their chronic pain, cold blast treatment looks promising.

What Does Cold Blast Treatment Mean for Phantom Limb Sufferers?

The small study at Emory University has already demonstrated success in terms of pain reduction without creating overall feelings of numbness. About 85 percent of patients have responded positively to the treatment, which assesses patients one week and 45 days after therapy.

The Emory research team relies on a 10-point pain scale to assess pain reduction. At the beginning of the study, patients reported an average pain score of 6.4. At the 45-day mark after cold blast treatment, patients reported an approximately 40 percent decrease in pain, with an average pain score of just 2.4.

Study participants have also indicated that while their pain and discomfort levels have decreased, they’re still able to sense their missing limb. That suggests the treatment is successfully targeting pain and discomfort instead of addressing other conditions.

Cold blast treatment can benefit phantom limb sufferers in many ways. Since more veterans are returning from deployments with amputations, this therapy could quickly become the most effective option available. For patients who have suffered from phantom limb syndrome for years, this treatment may help minimize pain without intensive surgery

Additional research will reveal what the future holds for cold blast treatment. As this method gains momentum, it may be able to help amputees better manage chronic pain symptoms as well as improve their overall health.

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