If you have hard part of your body removed, such as an arm or leg amputated due to injury or a breast removed following a breast cancer diagnosis, you might experience phantom pain. The sensation can also make you feel as though the body part is still present.
What are the symptoms?
The pain felt from phantom limbs can be extremely painful. Although it often decreases with time, it can be enough to significantly impact everyday life and prevent you from enjoying daily activities. The pain can be shooting, stabbing, throbbing or burning, and often begins a few days after the limb’s removal. You might find that the pain is triggered by stress.
What are the causes of phantom limb pain?
Phantom limb pain is still being actively understood, but it appears to be pain that originates in the brain or spinal cord as an adjustment to the missing limb. Risk factors for phantom limb pain include pain in the limb before its removal and the abnormal growth of nerve endings in the remaining stump.
How is it treated?
Both nerve blocks and spinal cord stimulation can be used to prevent pain signals from traveling nerve pathways and reaching the brain. In some cases, an intrathecal pump may be used to relieve pain. This is a pump placed into your body that delivers a consistent, time released dose of pain medication.