Resolving Phantom Pain

by Dr Peter Mack


This case is a lady in her early forties whose hand was caught and crushed in the sugarcane roller machine at a hawker centre. This happened a year ago. The right index and middle fingers turned black and had to be surgically amputated. After the surgery she experienced severe phantom limb pain (pain the fingers which were no longer there) which was resistant to all the pain-killers given by the hand-surgery team as well as the pain-management team. The Chief of Pain Management referred her to me for therapy (the first time ever). After 4 sessions of hypnosis and regression therapy her pain disappeared completely. She re-lived the terrible moments when she saw her hands crushed and her fingers turning gangrenous and could then come to terms with those feelings after the therapy.

A year later she returned to the hospital with severe burning pain at the stump of the amputation site and was unable to sleep at night as a result of it. The hand surgery team operated and explored the nerves in her hand, found two nerves to be swollen and removed those. After the surgery, the pain remained. The surgeons ran out of options and called me for help.

I started therapy sessions again using a different mix of approaches and hypnosis scripts for pain relief. In one of the sessions, she revealed under trance that the reason for her pain was that she couldn't accept the ugly appearance of the stump of her hand. I helped her to let go of her angst, while she was under hypnosis. After six sessions of therapy as an inpatient her pain completely subsided and she went home last week.

The hand surgery team was exhilarated, and so was I ........