Phantom Limb Syndrome is a complex phenomenon that includes a wide variety of symptoms ranging from tingling and itching to burning and aching. During the past twenty years researchers have advanced a number of theories to explain phantom limb pain.
Phantom pain is pain that feels like it’s coming from a body part that’s no longer there. Doctors once believed this post-amputation phenomenon was a psychological problem, but experts now recognize that these real sensations originate in the spinal cord and brain.
Although phantom pain occurs most often in people who’ve had an arm or leg removed, the disorder may also occur after surgeries to remove other body parts, such as the breast, penis, eye or tongue.
For some people, phantom pain gets better over time without treatment. For others, managing phantom pain can be challenging. You and your doctor can work together to treat phantom pain effectively with medication or other therapies.
Three of the most prominent are: 1) maladaptive changes in the primary sensory cortex after amputation (maladaptive plasticity), 2) a conflict between the signals received from the amputated limb (proprioception) and the information provided by vision that serves to send motor commands to the missing limb, 3) vivid limb position memories that emerge after amputation.