Phantom limb pain (PLP) is a sensation of pain or discomfort that comes from a limb or part of the limb that is not there.
After a part of the body has been removed, the pain still exists and feels like it is coming from that body part. PLP starts soon after the body part is removed, and is most common after removal of fingers or toes. PLP often feels like the pain is coming from the part of the body that is furthest away from the removed body part (e.g An amputee feels pain in the fingers after having their arm removed).
Treatment options may include:
- Acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Mirror box therapy
- Muscle relaxants
- Opioids (narcotic pain medications)
- Propping up the residual limb on a pillow
- TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation)
- Virtual reality therapy
- Pain (burning, cramping, crushing, pins and needles, shooting, stabbing, throbbing)
- Continuous pain
- Early pain onset after amputation
- Intermittent pain
Diagnostic tests include: There is no medical test that diagnoses phantom limb pain, but doctors can use information with symptoms and circumstances associated with the pain. This information might include the date of the surgery, onset of the pain, activity of the person right before the pain began, and any other information that might help provide an accurate diagnosis.
Causes & contributing factors may include:
- Changes in barometric pressure
- Cigarette smoking
- Exposure to cold.
- Herpes zoster
- Sexual intercourse
- Weather changes
- It is estimated that 4 out of 5 amputees report feeling phantom limb pains.
- The frequency and duration of phantom limb pain decreases in the first six months after body part removal.