Standard Article

Phantom Limb Pain

  1. Ivan Molton

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0674

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Molton, I. 2010. Phantom Limb Pain. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1.

Author Information

  1. University of Washington

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


Phantom limb sensation refers to the perception of a variety of physical feelings in a part of the body that has been removed. Although this is generally associated with limb amputation, phantom sensations have also been reported in women following mastectomy and in certain spinal cord injuries. Phantom limb sensations can include an “awareness” of the missing limb in its usual position or a sense that the affected limb is an unusual size (either too large or too small), is moving, is in an unusual position, is wrapped in cotton, or is wet. Phantom pain, or phantom limb pain, is a subtype of phantom limb sensation in which these perceptions are perceived as noxious. Although there are numerous historical examples of phantom limb pain, the term itself is generally credited to the U.S. Army physician Silas Weir Mitchell, who in 1872 described that “thousands of spirit limbs were haunting as many good soldiers, every now and then tormenting them.”


  • health psychology;
  • pain;
  • phantom pain;
  • somatoform disorder