Phantom Limb Pain: The Pain of a Missing Limb




Klovenski, Madison

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Phantom limb pain is the perception of pain in a limb that has been amputated; this sensation has been described as cramping, burning, stabbing, crushing, etc. which can be an excruciating pain lasting years. The feeling of pain in a region of the body that is no longer present is a phenomenon that does not have one single explanation or treatment, yet a variety of theories and treatment options exist. The term Phantom Limb Pain was first coined after the Civil War because of the large number of veterans with amputations, yet this pain existed long before the medical terminology. Over 200 million Americans are living with an amputation; 85% of amputees experience PLP yet each individual has different experiences. Amputations can be the by-product of tragic motor vehicle or war accidents and also due to planned surgeries resulting from diabetes or vascular disease. There is a wide range of theories that describe PLP, most involving the central nervous system. These include cortical remapping which is brain regions taking over portions of the brain that were once controlled by the amputated limb, somatosensory plasticity which is the brain's ability to alter over time, and nerve theories such as Dorsal Root Ganglion Abnormal Activity. Additionally, there has been much more research on different types of treatment that can alleviate phantom pain such as mirror therapy, virtual reality, and reconstruction surgeries. In my capstone, I will go into detail to describe the sensation and impact of PLP as well as describe current theories and treatments. It is important for amputees and the public to understand what phantom limb pain is so that more research is done to find additional treatment options to lessen this life-altering chronic pain.



phantom limb pain, amputee, limb loss


Klovenski, M. (2023). Phantom limb pain: The pain of a missing limb. Honors College, Texas State University.


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