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What is phantom pain?

If you are an Ohio resident who has had a limb or other body part amputated, you may experience a bizarre phenomenon known as phantom pain. When you experience phantom pain, you feel a discomfort that seems to be coming from a body part that is no longer there.

According to the Mayo Clinic, phantom pain may be continuous or intermittent but often first occurs within days of the amputation. Sensations associated with phantom pain include squeezing, throbbing, stabbing, shooting or burning pain. Emotional stress or physical pressure on the remaining portion of the limb may trigger phantom pain, and some sufferers report that it feels as though the limb is being forced into an uncomfortable position. 

Researchers do not fully understand the cause of phantom pain. In the past, doctors believed the cause to be purely psychological in nature, but research now indicates that its origin is actually neurological. In other words, phantom pain is a genuine sensation originating in the central nervous system, that is, the brain and the spinal cord. Experts now believe phantom pain results in part from the brain's attempts to adjust to the sudden loss of input from the missing limb.

Treating phantom pain is often a challenge, but treatment options may include conservative treatments, such as medications and acupuncture. Because the condition is neurological in nature, electrical stimulation of the brain, spinal cord or nerves may prove effective. Electrical stimulation of the nerves occurs through the skin and is noninvasive, while spinal cord stimulation requires a minimally invasive procedure and brain stimulation requires an invasive surgery. In some cases, phantom pain may go away on its own over time.

Whether you experience phantom pain, pain in your stump or both, you can help your doctor make a diagnosis and formulate a suitable treatment plan by describing the sensations you experience as precisely as possible.

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.

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