Phantom Limb | Pain Syndrome | MedStar Health
Smiling man with amputated arm.

Phantom pain syndrome, or phantom limb pain, is a condition in which a person experiences sensation that seem to originate in a body part that has been surgically removed (for example a leg, arm, or breast). Feelings of compression, burning, tingling, itching, movement, pain, and temperature have all been reported and often vary in severity and duration. Physicians aren’t certain what exactly causes phantom pain syndrome, but they believe it has something to do with nerve damage or a confusion of signals by the brain and nervous system after an amputation. This reprogramming of nerves is often unpredictable and can vary from case to case.

Treatment for the symptoms of phantom limb pain usually includes some combination of anti-inflammatory drugs, anti-seizure medicines, pain killers, beta blockers, or even specific antidepressants. There are many different therapies available to help relieve the pain, including mirror box therapy, acupuncture, massage, TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation), spinal cord stimulation, and nerve blocks. Surgery is only recommended as a last resort to treat any nerve pressure in the remaining limb or to stimulate the brain.

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MedStar Washington Hospital Center

110 Irving St. NW
Washington, DC 20010

MedStar Health: Medical Center at Lafayette Centre

1133 21st St., NW
Building 2
Washington, DC, 20036

MedStar Health: Medical Center at Brandywine

13950 Brandywine Rd.
Brandywine, MD 20613