Amputation, the loss of a body part to surgery or trauma, will have a dramatic effect on your daily life. Even the most resilient and healthy individuals will likely require physical therapy and ongoing support as they adjust to life after an amputation.
Some people may need to relearn their work or even how to perform basic grooming activities. Others may need to learn how to use assistive technology or prosthetic limbs that help them recover some of their lost functions.
In some cases, recovery after an amputation ends with a prosthetic fitting or the successful completion of occupational therapy. Others may have ongoing limitations to their life skills and job skills due to an amputation. One of the common lingering symptoms that can negatively affect people’s return to work after an amputation is phantom pain.
Phantom pain is essentially a nerve issue
An amputation is obviously a traumatic injury, but some of them do worse damage to the surrounding tissue than others. Even in a properly performed surgical amputation, patients may eventually report phantom pain.
Phantom pain is a physical sensation that makes it seem like the amputated body part is still present and in pain. It has no proven cause, and that means there is no simple cure for this unpleasant and sometimes debilitating sensation. Despite being cognitively aware of the fact that they no longer have a foot, leg or arm, the amputee can still feel the body part.
Worse, the sensation is painful, crushing, tingly, stabbing or fiery. For some people, the sensation is constant and dull. For others, it may vary in severity. Sometimes it will pop up sporadically. Phantom pain will dramatically impact someone’s work ability, as it will affect their strength, focus and even their endurance.
Those coping with chronic symptoms may not be able to resume the same work
Ideally, between medical treatments and employer support, workers recovering from an amputation will be able to return to the same job they once performed and wages they previously earned.
However, when someone has lasting symptoms that affect their daily life or job performance, their earning potential may go down substantially because they can only do basic work and, in some cases, may not be able to work at all. Learning more about the lasting consequences of an amputation can help you seek the benefits you need to cope with those symptoms after a severe work injury.