A UCT physiotherapy student-led new research that dispels the notion that phantom pain is a psychological disorder. File Picture: Zukiswa Minyi/African News Agency
Cape Town - A UCT physiotherapy student led new research that dispels the notion that phantom pain is a psychological disorder.

PhD candidate Katleho Limakatso, assistant lecturer in the chronic-pain management unit based in the department of anaesthesia and peri-operative medicine, was wrapping up his work at Victoria Hospital in August 2012.

He was on his way to catch a bus when a sobbing man stopped him. It was his left foot, he said, and the burning pain was unbearable.

UCT spokesperson Thami Nkwanyane said Limakatso’s first reaction was to help. “The patient was an amputee, his left leg had been removed. But he could still feel a stabbing pain in a foot he no longer had.”

Last year, Limakatso and his supervisor, associate professor Romy Parker, completed a randomised control trial investigating the effectiveness of graded motor imagery for reducing phantom limb pain in amputees.

“This intervention activates the areas of the brain that control movements of the amputated limb. The treatment was initially developed by researchers in Australia,” he said.

However, the UCT test was the first to be run in Africa.

Limakatso said their study targeted amputees from different cultural groups. The good news was that the treatment worked, he said. “It’s a huge development in pain management.”

Cape Argus