Phantom Pain

What is Phantom Pain?

Phantom Pain refers to pain that is felt within a body part that has been amputated.

It is thought that mixed signals from the spinal cord or brain are to blame for this condition. Even though the limb is missing, nerve endings in the area of the amputation keep sending pain signals to the brain, making it think that the limb still exists.

This pain could be extreme or mild, and the sensations will typically decrease or disappear over time. However, when phantom pain occurs for over 6 months, prognosis is poor.

What are the Symptoms of Phantom Pain?

On top of the symptoms of pain, other signs of phantom pain include:

  • Cramping
  • Tingling
  • Feelings of heat or cold

Put simply, any sensation that the patient would have been able to feel prior to having a limb amputated might still be experienced after the amputation in the form of phantom pain.

How is Phantom Pain Treated?

Phantom pain is hard to treat successfully. A doctor will prescribe treatment based upon the degree of pain experienced, and multiple approaches may be taken.

Treatment options include:

  • Relaxation techniques
  • Biofeedback that reduces muscle tension
  • Application of heat
  • Massage
  • Injections of steroids or local anesthetics
  • Surgery that removes scar tissue that entangles a nerve
  • Physical therapy
  • Nerve blocks
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation
  • Medications that include neuroleptics, antidepressants, sodium channel blockers, beta blockers, anticonvulsants, and pain relievers
  • Neurostimulation techniques