Phantom limb pain is a complex condition that causes pain or discomfort in a limb, organ or body part that is no longer physically present on or within the body. Although phantom limb pain is common in patients who’ve had an arm or leg removed, this post-amputation phenomenon may also occur in those who’ve had other body parts removed, including the ears, breasts, genitalia, tongue and eyes.
Phantom Limb Pain Causes
For years, it was believed this unique anomaly was purely psychological. Now, research indicates pain from phantom limb pain develops in the spinal cord and brain. The exact cause of the condition, however, remains unclear. Possible causes of phantom limb pain may include:
- The misfiring of signals within the spinal cord and brain, causing pain to areas surrounding the missing limb.
- Damaged nerves or scar tissue at the site of amputation causing pain.
- Emotional stress or prolonged pressure from a prosthetic.
Phantom Limb Pain Symptoms
Phantom limb pain could get better over time for some individuals, but many times the pain becomes chronic. Symptoms of phantom limb pain generally include:
- Stabbing, aching or burning pain near the area of a limb that no longer exists
- Pain that develops within days of an amputation or traumatic injury
- Pain that affects limbs farthest from body (feeling pain in the foot of an amputated leg)