History of Treatment Attempts
The literature on treatment of phantom pain is highly contradictory, as it is largely based on short-term studies of small groups of patients. The lack of a year-long follow-up as a part of routine clinical practice tends to prevent providers from realizing that treatments have not been effective. Numerous medical, psychiatric, and surgical treatments have been randomly applied to those amputees requesting treatment for phantom limb pain. An update of an analysis of the literature originally done by Sherman (1980) combined with a survey of practitioners treating phantom pain (Sherman et al., 1980) showed that 68 unrelated treatments for phantom pain were in recent or current use. Both practitioners and the published literature universally reported them to be successful. They ranged from highly invasive interventions such as lobotomies through spinal surgery and reamputation to more innocuous treatments such as “phantom exercises” (in which a sufferer is told to reach into himself and control the movements of his phantom, or even just recognize its existence), injection of the stump with local anesthetics, and relaxation training. Almost all of the research consisted of clinical, single-group studies with follow-ups of less than 6 months.