After an amputation, it’s common to experience periodic episodes of pain, but sometimes, the episodes continue beyond the normal healing timeframe. Residual limb pain (RLP) originates in the remaining part of a limb that has been amputated, typically along the suture line. The source of the pain can stem from a variety of surgery-related issues, but it may also be from conditions that existed before the surgery occurred. Those who suffer from residual limb pain also have a heightened risk of developing osteoporosis because of an altered gait pattern, a smaller weight load to carry, disuse atrophy and a lack of muscle use.
Causes of residual limb pain include:
- A skin infection or a deep tissue infection
- Neuropathy, especially if you have circulatory problems or diabetes
- Pressure points with or without skin breakdown
- Formation of a neuroma
- Limb ischemia
- Surgical trauma, such as decreased blood supply to the limb or the end of your bone that has poor tissue coverage
There is a wide range of symptoms that may be experienced, from mild to severe. Sensations such as stabbing, burning, sharp pain, dull pain, cramping, tingling, tremors, a cold or a hot sensation, pressure, electrical pulses, or squeezing pain may all be felt. “Stump pain” may be felt at the amputation site, and it is possible for the missing limb to feel like it is swaying or moving back-and-forth.
Approximately 68 percent of amputees experience residual limb pain, with 25 percent of RLP patients reporting the pain to be “extremely bothersome.”
Traditional Treatment Options
Traditional treatment options for RLP include physical therapy, cognitive behavior therapy, mirror-box therapy to help re-map their brains neural pathways, injections, non-opiate analgesic, deep brain stimulation, and nerve cuff stimulation. Many of these options are not effective in treating severe cases.
Medical Marijuana and RLP
Patients who are suffering from residual limb pain are turning to medical marijuana for its pain-relieving properties. Medical marijuana can treat a wide variety of physical symptoms that RLP sufferers face, such as lessening physical pain. It can also be useful in helping the patient reduce anxiety and increase relaxation, two important facets in avoiding the exacerbation of pain.
Other ways that medical marijuana can help RLP symptoms include reducing inflammation in patients that have a buildup of scar tissue. The THC found in medical cannabis can help stimulate new bone formation and combat the development of osteoporosis.
Visit Greenhouse to Get Started
If you’re suffering from residual limb pain and you have your registry identification card, visit a Greenhouse dispensary near you to talk with one of our professionals.