Phantom pain is experienced by people who have had amputations. Pain experienced in the body part before amputation is more likely to last after the amputation is done. This term is used to denote pain that is experienced with or without the body part. It is widely believed that amputees experience phantom pain because the part of brain receiving signals from the body part starts functioning abnormally.
Phantom pain can spread to other parts of the body without any particular explanation. It can also subside on it’s own.
People with phantom pain experience sensations like warmth, cold, tingling sensation and sharp pain. Symptoms include:
- Sudden occurrence of pain that comes and goes
- Aggravated pain due to weather changes
- Pain is more likely to occur a few days after the amputation
There is no exact cause for phantom pain. Several causes have been debated but no one as been able to clearly pin-point the exact cause. Some of the most likely causes are:
- Damaged nerve endings
- Scar tissue
- Long hours of inactivity
- Incorrect surgery
Phantom pain can effectively be treated by a combination of medicines and other forms of therapy. The pain tends to subside on it’s own in some people. Treatments offered include:
- Nerve blocks
- Nerve stimulation
- Steroid injections
- Cognitive therapy
- Medications – Certain drugs like antidepressants, anticonvulsants, local anaesthetics and morphine have proven effective in reducing the pain.
Some forms of treatments may be effective only for a few people. It is best to consult a doctor who can suggest a suitable treatment plan. A lot of research is being done to find alternate forms of treatment to cure this pain.