Phantom Limb Pain: Elusive, Yet Real


University of Alabama School of Nursing, University of Alabama at Birmingham, 1701 University Boulevard, Birmingham, AL 35294-1210.


Phantom limb pain is reported by almost all people who have had an amputation and by others who have dysfunction of their afferent nervous system pathways. Those who experience it indicate that the pain is real and that it is the body part that is “phantom.” Although this phenomenon is widely recognized, it is not well understood. The seeming incongruence of pain in a missing body part, combined with the difficulty of successfully treating this pain, result in severe chronic pain in a majority of people who have had an amputation. Treatment with drugs that reduce the number of functional sodium channels has been tried with success, as have various neurophysiological manipulations. This article addresses issues related to sensory experiences associated with phantom body parts and the treatment of pain associated with those experiences.