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Pain Problems » Lower Limb » Phantom Pain

Phantom limb pain is a term used to describe painful sensations that are perceived to originate in the amputated portion of the extremity. Phantom limb pain is usually described as burning, aching, or cramping. It is sometimes described as crushing, twisting, grinding, tingling, drawing, or like being stabbed with needles. Upto 1/3rd of patients may report sharp, shock like pains that are excruciating but brief. Four percent of patients report unusual positions of their phantom limb, while 10% complain of spasms or jerking in the phantom.

Exacerbations of pain may be produced by trivial physical or emotional stimuli. Fifty percent of patients have phantom limb pain that is provoked by emotional distress, urination, cough, or sexual activity. Many patients complain that exposure to a cold environment or changes in weather aggravate phantom limb pain. 

The usual course of phantom limb pain is to remain unchanged or to improve. Upto 56% of patients report improvement or complete resolution. Therefore when symptoms of phantom limb pain increase in severity or begin later than 1 month postamputation, the reasons should be investigated.