‘A life bringing phantom pain under control,to engage in occupations that enrich the soul’
Andrew Graham is a UK-based Occupational Therapist who specializes in assessing and treating phantom limb pain in amputees. Through his experience as an OT, a profession founded on helping people improve their health and well-being by engaging in meaningful activities, he helps people to understand some of the more difficult aspects of persisting pain.
Andy’s always had a passion for sports which led him to complete a Sports Science/Physical Education degree. This was a joint award with Psychology driven by his interest in the mind, social interactions and human development.
Andy spent a few years working in schools in the NE England as a support assistant to children with additional needs. He’s been lucky enough to spend time backpacking around the world, experiencing a variety of cultures and environments.
Training as an occupational therapist has allowed Andy to appreciate the true meaning of person-centered care. He has always endeavored to understand a person’s story and how they can use their strengths to overcome the adversity they are experiencing in their life.
Andy worked in the NHS in the UK, and says “it is great to work in a health system that is free at the point of delivery. My 5 years working in the NHS was challenging but very rewarding.”
In that position, Andy worked in a rehabilitation role for people living with a range of conditions such as stroke, spinal cord injury and vascular conditions. His specialist area is amputee rehabilitation. A fulfilling part of that role was working closely with other allied health professionals and the medical team to ensure a smooth transition from hospital to home for someone that had a life-altering operation or illness.
Andy teaches self-management skills that enable people who have had amputations to regain independence in daily activities and participate in meaningful activities as they adapt to life with a prosthesis. This knowledge is also directly applicable to helping non-amputees who have difficult persisting pain in other parts of their body.
Andy is particularly skilled in helping people with phantom limb pain. “What frustrates me as a therapist, is the inability to give a clear answer to amputees to explain their lived experience of phantom limb pain (PLP). It’s hard to explain to someone, who is likely to have been in pain prior to amputation, that it is normal for them to feel pain in the limb that is no longer there” Andy says. The same frustration and mechanism of pain also forms a part of the challenge of treating persisting low back pain.
This clinical interest in phantom limb pain led Andy to leave his clinical position in December 2017, and pursue further PhD study in specific treatments for this pain condition. His research will further investigate phantom limb pain, and enable better understanding and effective treatment for amputees. It will also further our understanding of other pain conditions such as low back pain and fibromyalgia through understanding the brain-based mechanisms of persisting pain in the absence of clear tissue damage.