Phantom Pain

What is Phantom Sensation?

This is the feeling that the amputated limb is still there. It can feel like tingling, pressure, cold, wetness, itching, tickling or fatigue in the limb that has been removed.

What is Phantom Pain?

People with an amputation may have the feeling of pain in the missing limb as if it were still there.
This pain may feel like:

  • Squeezing
  • Shooting
  • Cramping
  • Stabbing
  • Burning
  • Unnatural positioning

If you had a lot of pain before your amputation it is common to have phantom pain. For most amputees,  phantom pain will decrease over time. It may range from every day to once a week or once a month. Pain may range from mildly annoying to severe. For some amputees, phantom pain disappears completely a few months after amputation

What makes your pain worse?

  • Very cold or very warm temperatures outside
  • Emotional upset, sleeplessness, or being anxious
  • Less blood flow to the amputated limb
  • Keeping your limb in one position too long
  • Some infections and viruses, for example, cold, flu or throat infection

Some tips to help you deal with the pain…

  • Practice good hygiene and care of your amputated leg
  • Wrap your amputated limb in a warm blanket.
  • Mentally exercise the missing limb and your residual limb.
  • Massage, tap or rub your leg with a piece of terry cloth towel.
  • Stretch and exercise your limb -  slowly contract and relax the muscles of your amputated limb. This will improve blood flow and decrease pain.
  • Wear your shrinker or ACE wrap support.
  • Put on your prosthesis and take a short walk.
  • Check if your prosthesis is on correctly.
  • Change your position - move around or stand up.
  • Keep a diary of when the pain is most severe to help your doctor find out what makes your pain worse.
  • Ask your doctor about these other ways to control your pain such as self-hypnosis, biofeedback, TENS, acupuncture, medication and support groups.

 Medication should not be the only treatment for your pain. It should be used along with an exercise and stretching program.

Possible Complications

Severe pain can affect your sleep, walking, mood, daily activities and personal relationships. It is important to report it to your doctor or other health care team member.