Mirror, Mirror, on the Bed…

Do I have to wake up? All I want to do is sleep. When I’m asleep, my (nonexistent) leg doesn’t bother me. (For the unaware, a bone infection led to a below-the-knee amputation of my left leg a little over two years ago.)

From the middle of my shin to the very tips of my toes, my left leg has, of late, been extremely annoying. It tingles. It throbs. Sometimes there are stabbing pains. Mostly, however, it doesn’t want to stay still.


“Sit here,” it says. “No, I want to lie down… Wait. Maybe the bed isn’t a good idea; how about the desk chair? No, I believe I prefer the recliner. With the leg rest up. No, down. Hmmm…can you maybe shift more of your weight to your right cheek?”

And on and on and on…

Right now, in fact, it’s beginning to go to “sleep” around the ankle. It might help if I could move my foot, but it’s difficult to move something that isn’t there!

For the first time in more than two years, I’ve grumbled about four times in the past week that my leg is bothering me. I’ve had some mild sensations before, but nothing like this.

Could it be my scooter? Mine is in the shop and I have one that’s unfamiliar; one that’s also annoying. It’s higher than mine and the turning radius isn’t as tight, so it’s more difficult to transfer and to get around.

Also, for some reason, I can’t get onto this scooter seat as far back as on my own, so I’m hanging there on the edge while I scootch back. Same thing transferring from the scooter to the bed: I can’t get as far back on the bed as with my regular scooter and have to hang on while I scootch. It does not engender a sense of safety.

I do take a medication meant to alleviate phantom limb sensations. It isn’t working very well at the moment. Sometimes I take a painkiller, but don’t like doing that. Tried keeping it wrapped just in case the pressure helped, but all I got from that was a break in the skin behind my knee from the Ace bandage and an itchy rash from the silicone on the sleeve that goes inside the prosthesis.

Next to try? Mirror therapy.

Experts say the source of phantom pain probably is the result of a faulty signal between the brain and the missing limb. “Neurons in the brain continue sending out signals to a limb that’s no longer there. As a result, amputees can feel discomfort or pain and, in some cases, the sense that their missing limb is stuck in an uncomfortable position,” says an article on the US Air Force Web site.

Basically, all you do is place the mirror so the intact limb is fully reflected. Then you watch as you move the limb — which is seen in the mirror as two limbs — and imagine that the missing one is moving.

While you’re doing that, your brain “sees” two intact limbs and begins to leave the missing part alone.

In the article cited, participants underwent the mirror therapy 15 minutes a day, five days a week, for four weeks. Some continued for another four weeks. In some, the phantom pain went away altogether; in others, it was mostly alleviated.

It’s worth a try. As long, I suppose, as the mirror doesn’t break. That could lead to seven years of bad pain.

  • Sheri

    I have a friend whose dad has struggled with phantom limb pain and ended up drowning his sorrows in drink. It led to even worse problems. So this mirror therapy sounds very interesting to me. I sure hope it works for you!

  • Deb

    Jan, that sounds incredibly annoying. I hope the mirror therapy does the job.
    I wonder whether B complex works for phantom pain as it does for nerve pain. I take it twice a day and it really helps, but if you take too much it destroys your taste buds!