Phantom limb pain refers to the pain that you experience following an amputation. The sensation can even make you feel like the missing limb is still there.
There is much about phantom limb pain that is still understood. Essentially, the brain and spinal cord have to make adjustments to the missing limb and receive signals that are interpreted as pain. You may be at an increased risk for phantom limb pain if there is abnormal growth of nerve endings in the remaining limb stump.
Phantom limb pain can be severe, especially at first. The pain can be characterized as burning, throbbing, stabbing, and shooting. It often begins a few days after the limb is removed and then decreased gradually over time. The pain can also be triggered by stressful situations, and is debilitating enough to affect everyday activities.
The main focus of treatment for phantom limb pain is blocking the pain signals that travel through nerve pathways up to the brain. Nerve blocks and spinal cord stimulation can be effective. Additionally, an intrathecal pump can be placed into the body in order to deliver consistent doses of pain medication.