Superb Computer Program for Phantom Limb Pain
A new way has been devised by doctors to better the plight of amputees who often suffer phantom limb pain. With the help of computer generated augmented reality, a patient has been able to easily move a virtual arm controlled by his stump.
Mr. Johanson, who is 73 and lives in Sweden, had half of his right arm amputated after a car accident 48 years ago. He experienced severe pain in the amputated limb for 48 years when the limb no longer existed. This condition is common among 70% of amputees who lose an arm or a leg. The condition gradually deteriorates and takes toll on quality of life. There are numerous therapies to treat the condition, but these fail to provide the much needed relief to patients.
However, the new technique enables patients to use electric signals from the muscles in the amputated limb to talk to the computer and allow a real-time movement.
Mr. Johanson has said that he has sought incredible reduction in his pain after using the new computer program. He uses the program regularly now at his home. An intense period of pain no longer wakes him up at night anymore.
He has admitted that he sometimes feels the pain only in his little finger and the top of his ring finger compared to his wrist to his little finger previously. Apart from immense relief in pain, Mr. Johanson said he feels that his hand is in a resting, relaxed position rather than a clinched position.
He said that it is difficult to imagine that after feeling his hand in a fist for 48 years, he is now feeling it different with just training for some weeks. His hand is relaxed and opened now.
The new computer program helps amputees see themselves on a screen with a superimposed virtual arm, which they control using their own neural command in real time.
"The motor areas in the brain needed for movement of the amputated arm are reactivated, and the patient obtains visual feedback that tricks the brain into believing there is an arm executing such motor commands", said Max Ortiz Catalan, the brain behind the new treatment. As a result, patients feel themselves as a whole with the amputated arm back in place.
The method is different from previous treatments because the control signals are retrieved from the arm stump. Thus, the affected arm acts as the one in charge.