Prosthetic Categories

Treating Phantom Limb Pain with Vibration Therapy

    There are various methods to treat phantom limb pain, each offering varying degrees of success. As surgical techniques don't always give lasting relief, some medical practitioners and researchers encourage exploring conservative treatment methods, including vibration therapy.

     Vibration therapy is proven effective to relieve phantom limb pain.

    What causes phantom limb pain?  

    Phantom limb pain occurs in as many as 85% of individuals who undergo surgical amputation. These individuals often report sensations emanating from a limb that isn't there anymore. These sensations are often described as pain, from cramping and burning to a shooting sensation, ranging from mild to severe.

    Besides pain, some patients report feeling other sensations, such as pressure, vibration, touch, tingling, itching, and hot or cold temperature.

    Until recently, the reason for these sensations is shrouded in mystery. However, research published in 2019 shed some light on the phenomenon through the stochastic entanglement theory.

    In a nutshell, when neural circuits responsible for processing sensory input and producing motor output in the missing limb loses its role, it becomes prone to entanglement with other neural networks, which cause them to send mixed signals to the brain.  

    How can vibration therapy help?  

    Vibration therapy stimulates the nerves, suppressing painful inputs and disrupting pain signals sent to the brain, thereby providing relief.

    Vibration therapy also increases blood circulation and reduces symptoms of arthritis or restless legs syndrome.

    Vibration therapy at home  

    The good news is that those interested in vibration therapy don't have to go somewhere to receive treatment. Vibration therapy can be done at home with the TheraV ELIX.

    Amira Idris, a biomedical engineer, developed the TheraV ELIX. Idris was inspired to create the device after a chance encounter with an above-knee (AK) amputee suffering from phantom limb pain at a prosthetic clinic where Idris used to work. 

    After seeing the limited pain relief options available for amputees, Idris decided to create an alternative that doesn't depend solely on drugs.

    Jen Yung Lee, an AK amputee from San Antonio, Texas, can attest to the TheraV ELIX's effectiveness. Lee is a veteran and a goaltender for the Paralympic Sled Hockey team. He assisted the team in winning the gold medal in the 2014 and 2018 games.

    Before discovering the device, Lee has tried various conservative methods, including scraping massage, mirror reflection therapy, and deep tissue massage. He also tried to manage the pain with prescription pain medications, but none of these methods have provided lasting relief.   

    Lee admits being skeptical at first. After using the TheraV ELIX for some time, he is convinced. As of this writing, Lee still uses the TheraV ELIX to help manage his phantom limb pain.

    Unfortunately, vibration therapy isn't currently covered by the US Veterans Affairs Department (VA). However, Lee hopes that the Access to Assistive Technology and Devices for Americans Study Act will change that. He also hopes that the VA will consider covering vibration therapy access in the future. 

    Have you used the TheraV ELIX? What are your thoughts about it?