Archive for January, 2013

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Phantom Pain

January 31, 2013

Phantom pain is most usually associated with amputees who experience pain in limbs that are no longer present. However it is also associated with the spinally injured who experience pain in paralysed limbs when there is no logical explanation for the pain to be occurring where it is.

When I regained consciousness at the site of the accident in which I broke my back, I had no idea what had happened and felt no pain at all. I looked around me and as soon as I remembered about the accident that had just occurred, I suddenly felt excruciating pain that even morphine could only dull. The pain I felt was not so much from the site of the injury to my back as encompassing my body from the waist down, ie. all that had become paralysed. My body from the waist down had received no damage whatsoever and so, despite my perception, this pain was actually originating from the nerve damage in my spine.

The pain I experienced after the accident persisted for days, weeks, months and to some extent years. In all that time it slowly subsided and soon became bearable to live with and eventually it not so much disappeared as changed in nature. The pain became an unnatural feeling and then no feeling at all as though my body from the waist down was not a part of me but simply dead weight that I dragged around. My experience of pain then became bouts that lasted a day or two, which I believe is much more what the amputees experience. These bouts of pain were, and still are occasionally, always down my left leg, my weaker side. They manifest as striking pains surging down the centre of my thigh bone, when there seems to be no reason for the pain there. Of course my legs are weak, after all they are still paralysed to some extent. The structure is of poor quality, but the pain does not appear to come from physical weakness. It is what you can only describe as neurological pain.

For years I had no idea what was causing such bouts of pain. The bouts of pain seemed to come from nowhere, but the more we improved the structure of my body through ABR Therapy, the more I came to appreciate the weaknesses within it and only then did I start to understand that it was weakness in structure that was causing aggravation of nerve pathways, leading to these strange, and often excruciating, pains down my left leg. The weakness in structure responsible was not in my legs at all, but in the pelvic region where the nerve pathways branch off from the spinal cord and descend down into the legs.

As time went on these bouts of pain not only became fewer and further between, but I began to associate them with specific changes in the structure of my body. As my body strengthens and the structure improves it becomes less vulnerable to aggravation of the nerve pathways, but the improvements in structure always expose new weaknesses. Months of delivering mechanical input into the body, to revitalize its innate capacity, builds a certain tension within the structure that eventually brings about a transformation, creating a deeper connection between the elements of the body, taking it to a higher structural level. The re-emergence of the higher or deeper structural integrity is inevitably initially extremely weak, after all it has laid dormant for years, taken out of the equation through the structural collapse of the body as a result of spinal injury. This initial weakness of the newly re-emerged higher structure can leave the body once again vulnerable to the aggravation of nerve pathways leading to a bout of phantom pain.

As soon as the higher structural level is re-initiated it will naturally, to some extent, begin to strengthen, but it will also require a renewed approach to the application of therapeutic input. As I become more experienced in the healing of my body, I become more skilled at appreciating the changes, identifying the new weakness that has emerged as a result of the change and working out how to deliver the necessary input into the system to strengthen that weakness. However, unfortunately the bout of pain is often the first sign that the change is taking place. Over Christmas I had such a bout of pain, the first since last April. I understood immediately that the source of the pain was the aggravation of nerve pathways in the pelvic region and began to examine my body to understand the change that was taking place. I am well use to experiencing such change, but this was a particularly dramatic change in the structure of my hip joints. I could feel through internal perception that there was a certain deeper connection, a perception that increased as I got through the bout of pain and began working on the weakness, but it was my hands on examination of the structure that really shocked me. The Great Trochanter at the top of the femur was more prominent than ever and you could poke your fingers in around it, feeling the Neck of the femur, and quite frighteningly down to the hip joint itself. Never before had the hip joint been so exposed and this opened up a whole new facet upon which to work. I got to work straight away and soon began to build strength into the weakness and fill in that access to the hip joint that in a healthy body should not exist. I will be working on this facet for some time, but am pleased to say that the hips are strengthening well and the improvement in structure has taken my body to a new and exciting level. A level that I have of course been at before my injury, but never with such conscious understanding.

As a point of interest, I have gleaned from a friend of mine who is an amputee and suffers from such pain in his missing leg, that it is only those amputees who lose a limb after years of struggling with damage or deformity to that limb, that tend to suffer from phantom pain. Those who lose a limb in a sudden accident and remain otherwise fit and healthy don’t tend to experience such pain. Years of less than ideal use of a body due to a damaged or deformed limb will inevitably induce weakness in the intrinsic capacity of the body, particularly in the shoulders or pelvis, depending on whether it is an arm or a leg. Such a weakness may well be exacerbated by the removal of the limb and it is almost certainly the weakness that is the source of the pain once the limb is removed. Maybe the experience we are gaining through ABR Therapy can one day help amputees overcome phantom pain.

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