Phantom Limb Pain

Many amputees experience “phantom” sensations in their amputated limbs. Phantom limb pain can be debilitating and can happen in a continuous cycle or brought on by outside factors, such as changes in the temperature or stress. The pain is often most severe in the immediate months after amputation. However, it can reoccur much later, too.

Individuals with phantom limb pain describe the sensations as burning, stabbing or throbbing.

Possible causes of phantom limb pain include:

  • Memory of limb pain – Some researchers theorize that after a limb is damaged beyond repair, the brain is accustomed to feeling the pain.
  • Nerve bundle stimulation – The severed nerves around the amputation site either misfire or are stimulated in some way, sending a pain message to the brain.
  • Rewiring of the nervous system – Some evidence shows that when a limb is amputated, changes take place in the brain and spinal cord that cause pain to be interpreted differently than before.

If you or a loved one has experienced phantom limb pain, it’s important to know that treatment is available. 

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