Your Not Alone
Many of my family and friends ask me about phantom pain and what it entails. I have experienced this pain every day since my accident in 2011. Sometimes my phantom arm will be next to my stomach, mid-way up my chest pointing out or crumpled next to my arm pit. Regardless of its position, this pain feels like the skin of my arm is being removed and it is in hot frying oil just burning like fire while I am also being poked with millions of needles. I have learned over the years this is the most tolerable of my phantom pains. Sometimes, with the burning sensation, I feel as if someone has taken a knife, put it under the bed of my fingernails and slowly peels it and the skin off back to my elbow. This happens with all five fingers. Then they all grow back, and it starts all over. This goes on all day! Another pain feels as if the burning arm is held over a board while it is being pushed down so hard the bones crack. Only to heal back into place and the process starts all over. When the arm is close to my armpit, this is usually the most painful spot. Here the phantom arm feels as if it is not only burning, poked with needles, and the skin peeled off, it feels like each individual bone has snapped off between each joint while the arm is being electrocuted by thousands of volts of electricity. It also feels as if someone takes a knife and slices through the muscle to the bone at the elbow and scrapes the bone peeling off muscles, tendons, and skin all the way to the wrist. Once there, it starts all over again. In this position I am usually so exhausted by the pain I am a zombie by two o’clock in the afternoon.
All this is the brains attempt to get a response from the nerves of the brachial plexus that have been avulsion (torn out) of the spinal cord. These nerves run all your motor and sensory movement and feeling of the hand, arm, and shoulder. As my doctor said, the nerves may be gone but the part of the brain that controlled them is still alive.
My brain has taken over other parts of my body to get a response. When I shave the left side of my face, I feel pain in my phantom arm. It is as if I am putting pressure on the underside between my elbow and wrist. When I tap the left side of my chest it feels as if I am touching my palm and elbow. When I tap the upper part of my head, near the temple, my brain puts painful pressure on the outside of my phantom arm. This really feels weird but neat at the same time.
Once I woke up and I felt no pain and was ecstatic. It is gone! Whooo Hooo! So, I went and started taking my shower and like a limb growing out of a tree trunk it slowly grew down my side across the front of my stomach and all the pain started again. Oh well, enjoyed it for a little while. That has only happened once.
In closing all I can say once again is, “phantom pain is real.” Please have compassion for those who experience it. Thanks for taking the time to feel my pain. ~Tommy Fergerson