Does Amputation Help With RSD?

*Warning: Rant Ahead*

Whenever I hear RSD in the same sentence as Amputation, I tense up. Now, before going further with this topic…yes, I have been diagnosed with RSD. And yes, I did have my leg amputated. But although both of those things are true, they are not really related to each other. At least not in my case.

I had my amputation because of a life-threatening infection that I contracted as a result of the gaping wounds and lymphedema in my leg. RSD was not a factor in that whole situation. In fact, if RSD was the only issue, I never would have gone through with surgery. Yet somehow, people are now coming to me asking for advice about amputating their RSD limbs.

I’m not saying that people asking me for advice is bad. In fact, I am glad that I can be a resource to them. When asked, I usually share a bit of my story and answer any questions that they might have about my journey, directing them to their doctors for individual advice. Now, in the cases I’ve heard of, the issues are a bit more complicated than RSD alone, so I’m not really speaking to those friends here. I’m talking to the people who see stories such as my own, where a person’s life does a complete 360, and assume that amputation magically solves all the problems in the universe, including RSD. (Spoiler alert: It doesn’t.)

I’m not one for giving medical advice because I understand that each and every story and body is different. Well, and because I’m not a qualified medical expert. I believe that conversations need to be initiated with patients’ doctors about specifics regarding treatment options. But since this is my blog, I’m going to go on a rant for a minute here.

I don’t think amputation does much to solve RSD.

If you look at different research articles and RSD websites, you’ll probably find that amputation is rarely recommended as a treatment option for RSD. Why? Well, first of all, it’s a permanent solution to a problem that has the potential to reach remission. Beyond that, RSD as we know it is a problem with the nerves and signals throughout the body, so the pain and mixed messages can just travel around to the residual limb or elsewhere. It’s not like a crush injury or something where you can just remove the problem when it gets to be too severe and unmanageable. Even if that were the case, amputees still deal with phantom sensations and phantom limb pain…which can be even harder to treat than pain in a physical limb.

When you’re dealing with unrelenting pain, you are willing to do anything to make it stop. I know that personally, I often wished I could just have my leg cut off so I could be done with it. But truthfully, I don’t think it’s a great option. Yes, my story has had a happy outcome. But that could be attributed to many things. I believe that a determined spirit, a positive attitude, hardcore prayers, and some rockin’ numbing medication in my stumplet after surgery all contributed to the positive experience that I went through during the amputation process. Not just the chopping itself.

I wish amputation could solve every single person’s problems and take away their pain. I do. And I’m sure there are people out there who have had great experiences with it like I did. But in general, amputation should be used as a very last resort. Not as just a seemingly simple solution. So in case you were wishing to join the amputee club in order to try to rid your body of RSD, please think long and hard before making such a permanent decision. Talk to your doctor. Look into options. In my opinion, amputation as a treatment for RSD alone just isn’t the best route, and I apologize to anyone who has gotten that impression from seeing how my story panned out.

Okay, my rant is over. Continue on 🙂


2 thoughts on “Does Amputation Help With RSD?

  1. Donna Myrick says:

    Rachel, I hope that people who likewise suffer with RSD, have talked to their doctors about just what you have written about! What works, even for minimal relief of pain, may not work for someone else. I hope your story will inspire others who are suffering to find good doctors and seek options for pain relief. It is stories like yours, that encourage people to seek treatment plans!



  2. Joan OC says:

    Rachel- thank you so much for sharing. And, explaining and backing up your comments when you get technical. Sure appreciate you and what’s going on in your life. Blessings, J


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