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Phantom Pain: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Phantom pain refers to the phenomenon of feeling extreme, ongoing pain in a part of one’s body that is no longer there. The limb itself has been amputated, but the sensation persists. Phantom pain can be a difficult symptom to live with, and it can be hard to know what’s causing your pain. Read more to learn how many treatment options are available and how they can help reduce or eliminate the pain.

What is Phantom Pain?

Did you know around 80% of the world’s amputees experience phantom pain? Phantom pain is chronic pain that occurs after an amputation or injury to the body. The term “phantom” refers to the fact that your brain continues to feel as though your body part still exists even though it has been removed. This pain can be felt in many different ways: it may feel like burning, tingling, or shooting sensations; it may be constant or intermittent; and it may occur at any time—even when you aren’t thinking about your amputated limb at all. However, it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible once these pains begin so they can be addressed.

What Are The Symptoms of Phantom Pain?

Phantom pain may be constant or intermittent; it may come on suddenly or come and go over time. Despite this, 8 in 10 people continue to have phantom pain two years after limb removal. The most common symptoms of phantom pain include:

  • Numbness
  • Burning sensations
  • Aching sensations
  • Cramping sensations

You do not need to live in pain. If you are suffering from pain that could be caused by phantom pain, we can help.

What Causes Phantom Pain?

Phantom pain is often felt soon after limb loss, but it can also come on as much as six months later and even years afterwards. The exact cause of phantom pain is unknown, but some factors are considered risk factors and can worsen pain:

  • Wearing shoes that do not provide proper arch support
  • Obesity or sudden weight gain
  • Long distance running
  • Running on uneven surfaces
  • Arch problems, including flat feet and overly high arches
  • Tight Achilles tendons

Patients who experience pain in the limb before amputation often feel phantom pains after surgery, and your provider will try to minimize these before you are discharged.

How is Phantom Pain Treated?

Phantom pain is a common symptom of traumatic nerve injury. The injured nerves send pain signals to the brain, even though the limb is no longer there. In some cases, these painful sensations can be treated with medication and other therapies.

  • Medications that may help with phantom pain include opioids (painkillers) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Some people may also benefit from antidepressants or anticonvulsants.
  • Physical therapy may help you manage your phantom pain by teaching you how to move your unaffected limbs or use other body parts in new ways. Your provider will also work with you on activities like stretching and exercise that can reduce the intensity of your phantom pains.
  • A specially designed brace worn when you sleep may help stretch your fascia, thereby relieving pain.
  • Supportive shoes and padded inserts can also reduce the tension placed on the fascia and prevent future injury.

How Long Can Phantom Pain Persist?

Phantom pain can persist for months or even years after an injury. The length of time it takes for phantom pain to fade depends on the severity of the injury and on how you treat it.

If you treat a mild injury on time, then you should expect your phantom pain to fade within six weeks or so. If you have a more severe injury, however, then you may have persistent phantom pain for much longer—even years after the initial injury occurred.

When Should You See a Doctor for Phantom Pain?

If you’re experiencing phantom pain, you may wonder when you should see a doctor.

It’s important to note that phantom pain is not a disease or a disorder—it’s a symptom of another illness. That means that most of the time, your provider will be able to treat the underlying cause of your phantom pain without treating the pain itself.

If your pain persists for more than six months (or even longer), it can become chronic and hard to treat. When this happens, your doctor may recommend seeing a neurologist who specializes in treating chronic pain conditions.

Why Choose Clearway Pain Solutions for Treatment for Phantom Pain?

If you’re suffering from phantom pain, you know how difficult it can be to get relief. You may have tried over-the-counter remedies, at-home exercises, and even dietary or lifestyle changes, but nothing has worked. If so, it’s time to try Clearway Pain Solutions. We are the best choice for chronic pain treatment. Our team of specialists will work with you to develop a treatment plan tailored specifically to your needs. Learn more about Clearway Pain Solutions or contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Request an Appointment

Are you ready to alleviate your pain and restore your physical function so you can live your best life – the one you want and deserve? The entire Clearway team is ready to help.

To request an appointment, please click the button below. You will be routed to our Patient Portal, where you can register with us by providing us with some basic information. We will get back as quickly as possible to set up and confirm your appointment day and time. Just below the form, we provide answers to some of the most frequently asked questions, as well.

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