Phantom Limb Pain

This article is a basic overview of phantom limb pain. John Miles, the author, discusses its history, cause, and treatments.
Phantom limb pain is pain in an arm or leg, etc., which is no longer there. In most cases, it is found in men. A French doctor Ambroise Pare was the first to notice patients with pain in absent limbs. That was in the sixteenth century. In the 1980's, phantom limb pain was studied again by two Danish neurosurgeons, Jensen and Rasmussen. Their study was not very accurate, so not much of any value is known about phantom limb pain as of today. That is why they still do not know the cause of it. Most scientists believe that a nerve still exists on the stump of the limb and the brain does not know how to interpret the signal it is giving so it ultimately ends up being pain. Some scientists believe that once the limb is lost, the body has a chemical imbalance, and that leads to the brain thinking that the limb is in serious pain. Almost all scientists believe there is a psychological aspect to phantom limb pain, but it is very hard to prove. There are several treatments discussed in this article. One is re-operating so that the second time will stop the pain. Some people find relief by just massaging the stump. Strong analgesics are another way to treat the pain, but only for a short amount of time. Alcohol helps some and aggravates others. Electrical stimulation helps many if their pain worsens when they are at rest; otherwise, active people can not keep the electric pads on their stump. Brain stimulation has great effect in relieving the pain in less than 5% of people that attend treatment clinics. Research into solving the enigma of phantom limb pain is underway and the future is looking better.