Phantom Limb Pain

Painful sensations that appear to be coming from a limb which has been amputated is known as Phantom Limb Pain. 

Those who have had a limb amputated may continue to feel pain in the limb that was removed. Phantom limb pain is difficult to distinguish from pain felt in the stump which remains after the amputation. It is believed that phantom limb pain can affect as many as 80 percent of amputees, and occurs independently of age, gender, level or side of amputation. Researchers have found that patients who had a very short amount of pre-amputation pain have a lower incidence of phantom pain. Phantom pain can also be present in as many as 20 percent of children who are born without a limb, and in about 50 percent of children who undergo an amputation prior to the age of 6. 

Risk Factors Associated with Phantom Limb Pain

While anyone who undergoes a limb amputation can experience Phantom Limb Pain, the following factors increase the likelihood:

  • Significant levels of pre-amputation pain in the limb
  • Persistent pain felt at the end of the amputated limb, due to nerve damage
  • Accompanying bone pain, joint pain, headaches or other types of pain
  • Having a bilateral limb amputation—the same limb on both sides of the body
  • Amputation of the leg or a part of the leg 

Symptoms of Phantom Limb Pain and Getting a Diagnosis

The first few days following an amputation are generally when the Phantom Limb Pain begins, however there are cases in which the onset of the pain did not occur for months or even years following the amputation. Patients who also have “phantom sensation”—that is, they perceive their amputated limb as present, are more likely to suffer Phantom Limb Pain. Symptoms of Phantom Limb Pain include:

  • Phantom Limb Pain is usually intermittent, rather than constant
  • Phantom Limb Pain is usually experienced in the furthest part of the missing limb—as an example, if the leg is amputated, the pain may be felt in the toes, top of the foot or ankle
  • The pain in the amputated limb may be similar to the pain felt in the limb prior to amputation
  • Phantom Limb Pain is often described as burning or shooting
  • Phantom Limb Pain is a neuropathic type of pain 

Treatments for Phantom Limb Pain

If you suffer from Phantom Limb Pain, your day-to-day life may be severely disrupted by the pain you experience. At Seattle Pain, the goal of our interventional pain management specialists is to help you regain your quality of life. To reach that goal, we may suggest both traditional and non-traditional treatments, including:

  • Opiate analgesics
  • Opioid drugs
  • Spinal cord stimulation

Are you experiencing unmanageable pain after an amputation?

Contact Our Seattle Interventional Pain Management Specialists

At Seattle Pain, we can help relieve your pain, and significantly improve your quality of life. We believe in treating the whole patient – and not just the injury. You do not have to live in pain. Call us today at 253-944-1289 or complete a contact form today. 

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