Cheerful man standing outside in nature with a prosthetic leg, wondering about phantom limb pain.

Phantom Limb Pain 101

Losing a limb is hard enough, but sometimes the process can be made even worse by something called phantom limb pain, also known as PLP. This condition makes the person who recently had something amputated still feel pain in that area, even if it’s gone.

Despite the fact that PLP happens to about 80 percent of the amputee population, it’s not commonly talked about. That’s because those who don’t experience it themselves often associate it with mental health problems. But phantom limb pain isn’t just in the brain. It’s a real, physical experience.

To help spread awareness, we’re discussing phantom limb pain in the blog below.

What is Phantom Limb Pain?

As mentioned above, PLP occurs when feeling returns to a limb that is no longer there. Scientists believe this occurs because of mixed signals being sent to the body from the brain and the spinal cord. For those experiencing it, the sensations can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few days.

Most commonly, PLP happens within the first six months of the amputation and tends to lessen after that time period.

What Causes Phantom Limb Pain?

There are a few known triggers for PLP. A small portion of the full list is included below:

  • Physical touch
  • Feeling cold
  • Changes in the atmosphere and the level of pressure in the air
  • Using the restroom
  • Smoking
  • Other diseases like herpes or angina
  • Sexual intercourse

For those who do have PLP, it’s important to keep track of when it happens and if it commonly occurs after the same thing. Being able to identify your personal triggers makes treatment easier down the road.

What’s the Treatment for Phantom Limb Pain?

Speaking of treatment, there are a handful of treatment options available for phantom limb pain. Medication is extremely common, as it will interrupt the pain signals that your brain and spinal cord are sending, stopping the pain from happening in the first place.

However, there are also several other non-medication treatment options. The most common of those are massage therapy, acupuncture, biofeedback, music therapy, dorsal root ganglion stimulation, and even virtual reality therapy.

If you or a loved one needs assistance with PLP, the pain management specialists at  Alliance Spine and Pain would be happy to assist. Give us a call at 770-929-9033 or click here to schedule an appointment.