Phantom limb pain refers to mild to extreme pain felt in the area where a limb has been amputated.
Phantom limb sensations usually will disappear or decrease over time; when phantom limb pain continues for more than six months, however, the prognosis for improvement is poor.
Phantom limb pain (PLP) is a complex phenomenon that includes a wide variety of symptoms ranging from tingling and itching to burning and aching. During the past twenty years researchers have advanced a number of theories to explain phantom limb pain. Three of the most prominent are:
- Maladaptive changes in the primary sensory cortex after amputation (maladaptive plasticity).
- A conflict between the signals received from the amputated limb (proprioception) and the information provided by vision that serves to send motor commands to the missing limb.
- Vivid limb position memories that emerge after amputation.