Phantom Limb Pain
Phantom limb pain is a real condition that occurs in some people after the amputation of an arm or leg. People with phantom limb feel pain as if the amputated limb is still there. The exact mechanism of phantom limb pain is not well known, but it appears to be related to the way nerve signals are processed in the brain. There are several different types of treatment to relieve symptoms, and researchers are investigating ways to prevent the condition.
Phantom limb pain is not imaginary. It is a real condition with a real physical cause. Researchers have used sophisticated brain mapping techniques to demonstrate that the pain that people with phantom limb pain feel is real. The exact cause of phantom limb pain is unknown. It appears that after an arm or leg is amputated the nerves and memories in the brain send faulty signals as the circuitry attempts to “rewire” itself.
There are a variety of treatments for phantom limb pain. It is rather common to try more than one type of treatment before discovering what works the best for you. Treatment may include medications such as antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and narcotic pain medication. Pain management therapies such as nerve stimulation (TENS), spinal cord stimulation, acupuncture, medication injections, or implanted medication pumps can help. In rare cases, surgery is used for stump revision or deep brain stimulation.
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The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Authors Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and Valerie K. Clark, and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on February 16, 2022. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit www.iHealthSpot.com.