Phantom Limb Pain

Phantom limb pain refers to a unpleasant sensation felt in region distal to the amputation, where the limb previously was. While the exact cause is unknown, the most likely mechanism is related to deafferentation of the nerves of the limb because of interrupted signals along the pathway of the nerve. Deafferentation describes a disruption on nerves resulting in a painful condition. This is similar to what happens with pain associated with spinal cord injuries. Phantom limb pain is quite common, estimated that 50-85% of amputee experience phantom limb pain. Phantom Limb pain usually occurs in the acute phase after an amputation then will subside over time. Chronic phantom pain is rare, but may affect up to 5% of those with an amputation. Phantom limb pain is differentiated from phantom limb sensation, which is a non-painful sensation of the amputated limb. There are various treatment options available from conservative options to minimally invasive injections to help mitigate the pain. This condition is managed best by physicians who have training in prosthetics, orthotics and rehabilitation (PM&R – Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Physiatrists) who understand the nervous system and associated complexities of this condition.

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