After one of your limbs is amputated, you may feel as if the limb is still there. This is called phantom sensation. It may feel:
These sensations slowly get weaker and weaker. You should also feel them less often. They may not ever go away completely.
Pain in the missing part of the arm or leg is called phantom pain. It may feel like:
Phantom limb pain will lessen over time for most people.
Some things may make phantom pain worse, such as:
Try to relax in a way that works for you. Do deep breathing or pretend to relax the missing arm or leg.
Reading, listening to music, or doing something that takes your mind off the pain may help. You may also try taking a warm bath if your surgery wound is completely healed.
Ask your doctor if you can take acetaminophen (Tylenol), aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin), or other drugs that help with pain.
These following may also help lessen phantom pain.
Zhou YL. Principles of Pain Management. In: Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, eds. Bradley’s Neurology in Clinical Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2012:chap 44.
Bang MS, Jung SH. Phantom limb pain. In: Frontera, WR, Silver JK, eds. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Hanley & Belfus; 2008:chap 104.
Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense. VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline for Management for Rehabilitation of Lower Limb Amputation. http://www.healthquality.va.gov/amputation/amp_sum_508.pdf. January 2008. Accessed July 1, 2014.
Updated by: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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