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What is phantom limb pain and can it be treated?

View profile for Katie Plappert
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What is phantom limb pain and can it be treated?

After the amputation of a limb there are undoubtedly many challenges to overcome. Recovery time will be needed following surgery, and it will take time to adjust to the significant change to your body and adapt over time.

It is possible to feel pain in your limb even after it has been amputated; this is known as phantom limb syndrome, sensation, or pain. It can affect any area of the body, such as a hand, arm, leg, breast, toes or feet.  

Why does it happen?

The cause of phantom limb pain has been the subject of many theories over time; however, it is understood to be as a result of signals originating from the brain and spinal cord. Nerve endings send pain signals to the brain sensing that something is wrong.

The severity of the pain will vary from person to person and can be shooting, stabbing, itching, burning, or electric shock like, but will usually improve over time.

Can it be treated?

There are a number of recommended treatments to help manage phantom limb pain, and it is likely that both medical and non-medical options will be explored, such as:

  • Medication (anti-inflammatory drugs, opioids, antidepressants, and muscle relaxants)
  • Acupuncture
  • Massage or repositioning of the residual limb
  • TENS machine
  • Mirror box therapy (using mirrors to make it appear that you are still controlling the amputated limb)
  • Virtual reality therapy (a more advanced version of the above)
  • Mental exercises – just imagining you are using your amputated limb may help
  • Further surgery may also be considered as a last resort

It is important to remember that phantom limb pain is common after an amputation and there are steps that can be taken to help manage the condition. If you are experiencing any such pain, speak to a medical professional for guidance and support.

At Stephensons our amputation claim experts have a great deal of experience in helping those who have undergone amputation, as a result of an injury that wasn't their fault, to recover compensation. This compensation can also help you to access the help and support you may need to enable you to continue to live a happy and fulfilled life. Call our team now on 01616 966 229