Managing Phantom Limb Pain
Anyone who undergoes an amputation can develop stump and phantom limb pain. Phantom limb pain feels like it is coming from the body part that is no longer there, although nerve endings actually cause it at the amputation site that sends pain signals to the brain. Stump pain is located at the end of an amputated limb’s stump – and is caused by nerve damage in the stump region.
Causes & Risk Factors
- As nerves damaged in your amputation surgery try to heal, they sometimes form abnormally sensitive regions called neuromas, causing stump pain.
- Phantom pain typically occurs within the first week after an amputation, although in some cases, it can develop months or even years after surgery.
- Phantom pain may respond to mixed brain signals as the spinal cord and brain lose input from the missing limb and adjust in unpredictable ways.
- Phantom pain may be caused by damaged nerve endings, scar tissue at the amputation site, and the physical memory of pre-amputation pain in the affected area.
There are many types of stump and phantom limb pain. PMIR’s pain and spine specialists can help you discover the type and cause of the pain effectively. Symptoms include:
- Onset within the first few days of amputation.
- A tendency to come and go rather than be constant.
- Stump pain is often described as sharp, burning, and electric.
- May also include feelings of coldness, warmth, itchiness, or tingling.
- Often described as a shooting, stabbing, boring, squeezing, throbbing, or burning.
- The weather may trigger pain, pressure on the remaining limb part, or emotional stress.
Although there are no medical tests to diagnose stump and phantom limb pain, the conditions can be identified by collecting information about the symptoms and thorough clinical examination.