Testing a Treatment for Phantom Limb Pain

Research by Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute and Penn Medicine into a treatment for the phantom limb pain received coverage on a Philadelphia television station recently.

Almost 2 million people in the U.S. have had an amputation. The great majority of those people experience a persistent sensation of the missing limb, known as a “phantom limb,” which is associated with debilitating pain. Current therapies fall short of bringing relief to most of these individuals.

Most theories on the cause of phantom limb pain propose that the commands sent from the brain to the amputated limb fail to generate the sensory feedback signals that the brain expects. The mismatch between the expected and actual sensory feedback causes pain. Based on this theory, Laurel Buxbaum, PsyD, associate director of Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute (MRRI), and colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania – H. Branch Coslett, MD, Katherine Kuchenbecker, PhD, and Alex Miller – have developed a new virtual reality approach to the treatment of lower limb phantom limb pain that seeks to improve the match between expected and actual feedback.

The report below by 6ABC explains the problem and the research.

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