Innovation

New Prosthetic Leg That Has Senses Shown To Reduce Phantom Pain

In a recent report, researchers recently revealed a new prosthetic leg that can help reduce phantom pain, simply by providing it with the sense of touch.

Reducing Phantom Pain

Publishing their findings online in Nature Medicine, the researchers went on to state how the new prosthetic leg helped their participants (in this case, two men) walk with greater confidence after trying it on. They were also able to walk much faster and more smoothly.

A post-amputation phenomenon, phantom pain is used to describe a pain that feels like it’s coming from a part of your body that is no longer there. When it was first established as a real condition, doctors and health experts once believed that phantom pain is caused by the psychological toll and stress that comes from losing a limb. However, new research has proven that while a small part of it is indeed psychological, phantom pain is a real sensation and it mostly originates in both the spinal cord and the brain.

Throughout the years, various therapies have been used to get rid of phantom pain. These include acupuncture, use of a shrinker, biofeedback, mirror box therapy, virtual reality therapy and massaging the residual limb. And while most of these are effective in a sense, the sensations still can’t be removed completely.

Per the researchers, the key to helping overcome it is by restoring the signals that were once given by the now-missing limb. By restoring these sensations, people who rely on prosthetic limbs would be able to lead better lives.

To test the limb, which had been outfitted with sensors that detect both pressure and motion, neuroengineer Stanisa Raspopovic of EHT Zürich enlisted the help of two male participants, both of which have legs that have been amputated above the knee.

“If you close your eyes, you will think that you have your own leg,” Savo Panic in Serbian, one of the participants, said.

When wearing the limbs, the two men reportedly walked with better confidence and precision. They were also able to move faster and more smoothly, even on uneven terrain. Findings also revealed that after using the limbs for a month, the feelings of pain are significantly lessened.

Moving forward, more tests will be made to fine-tune the limbs.

prosthetic leg Body identity integrity disorder is a strange and very distressing condition. A shift towards treating it as a neuroscientific problem could be the key to a cure. John Moore/Getty Images

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