Let me just say first that I’m not writing this because I’m seeking sympathy, or pity. It’s just one facet of life as an amputee, and since one of my primary aims of blogging here is to discuss the experiences of my different body, that’s why I’m writing this post.
A few times a year, I get the phantoms. I’ve mentioned them occasionally on my blog before. There’s not much of a pattern to when they happen, except that I’ve noticed they are more likely to occur when I’m dehydrated or sick. They were pretty bad when I was pregnant, too.
Generally, I don’t think being an amputee is all that painful. As long as I’ve got a prosthesis that fits well, my pain level is probably not all that different from anyone else who’s heading towards middle-age. Of course, when my leg isn’t fitting well or when I’ve got pressure sores or rashes on my stump, that’s a bit of a different story. But I’m lucky not to be experiencing any of those problems right now.
The past few days we’ve had a cold/flu bug going around our family. Yesterday I pressed on with my regular schedule despite feeling pretty cruddy. And then it hit me right around dinner time–the nerves in my right leg started spasming. The pain level is pretty close to what I felt when I had labor contractions before my babies were born. It starts in my leg and causes my entire body to shake for a few seconds. To be fairly descriptive of how it was feeling yesterday, it was as if someone had poked a metal wire up along the side of my femur bone and then ran a jolt of electricity through that wire every few minutes. Oddly, the pains are different each time it happens. It used to feel more like my toes were being twisted off one-by-one. Or that someone was ironing the bottom of my non-existent foot.
There are a few remedies that work–walking helps, as does some pressure on my stump or a warm shower. But really the only thing I’ve found that truly helps is a dose of a strong muscle relaxant. So that’s what I took last night, and then slipped into sleep, only waking occasionally to note that the spasms were becoming weaker as the night wore on. When I awoke this morning I felt stiff and sore in my right hip, with just a very faint metallic-tingly feeling. As if my leg had “fallen asleep” and was just waking up.
I don’t know how other amputees experience phantom pains. Those I know, I’ve never thought to ask. It’s not something that I think about very often, or that impacts my life in any huge way. It just happens sometimes. And I don’t think I’m particularly heroic for having endured phantom pains–we all have these little tricks that our bodies play on us once in awhile. Whether it’s lower back pain, that stiff elbow, or the arthritis that gets to us when it rains. I figure we’re all just doing the best we can and some days that means we have to take it easy for awhile.