An Overview of Phantom Limb Pain

Typically a Phantom limb pain very often is seen in amputees wherein they experience pain in the limb that has been removed. The reason for this sort of pain maybe that the sensations that allow us to perceive this pain is hardwired into the brain, so that even though the limb is no more attached to the body, the nerve ends in the brain continue to report pain even where there is no longer a receptor for it.


As mentioned before, it is thought that phantom limb pain may be caused through confused signals received by the brain or spinal cord. There are also known to be certain activities that tend to trigger an onset of phantom limb pain. Some of these activities are:

  • Touching
  • Urinating or passing stool
  • Having sex
  • Angina
  • Smoking
  • Pressure variations
  • Herpes zoster virus
  • Cold weather


In addition to the pain in the area where the limb used to be, individuals may also feel any of the following:

  • Tingling
  • Cramping
  •  Heat and cold sensations


You can consider relaxing yourself with meditation or by conditioning your mind to soothe the troubled body part. Reading a book or listening to good music can temporarily make you feel good as your mind will be away from the thoughts of pain. You can check with the doctor if a pain reduction medicine can be taken for some relief. You can also consider giving exercise to the balance body parts. Some bandages also good a good job in relaxing the remaining body parts.


The treatment of phantom limb pain is difficult, mainly because the pain is caused by the brain’s sensations from nerve receptors that don’t exist anymore. Therefore, there may be several combinations of treatment required so that the individual is relieved of the way the brain is interpreting these misdirected signals. Some of the ways it can be treated are the following or a combination of the following:

  • Medication
    • Acetaminophen and NSAIDs
    • Opioids
    • Antidepressants
    • Anticonvulsants
    • Beta blockers
    • Muscle relaxants
  • Acupuncture
  • Massage of the part of the limb above the amputated region
  • Using a shrinker
  • Rest for the body
  • Mirror box therapy
  • Biofeedback
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation
  • Virtual reality therapy
  • Imagery
  • Any sort of relaxing activity like music
  • Application of heat
  • Surgery
  • Use of an electric prosthetic limb for a couple of hours every day

While phantom limb pain is a relatively common phenomenon in those who have lost a limb, there is still no one cause that has been determined that has lead to its existence. Other ways of treating this condition could be through psychoanalysis and tricking the brain through various visual aids, so long as the brain stops incorrectly interpreting these signals.