Phantom pain, sometimes also referred to as ghost pain, is a type of pain that seems to originate from a part of a limb or an organ that is no longer part of the body. Some patients who had a leg or arm amputated say they can still feel pain in the limb even though that limb that is gone. This type of pain is most common in arms and legs; however, some patients say they feel it in other body parts removed as well including breasts. For some the pain goes away eventually, for others it can be long-lasting and severe.
The causes phantom pain are not known by doctors. Mixed signals from the brain or spinal chord is one possible explanation. After an amputation, areas of the spinal cord and brain adjust to this detachment in unpredictable ways. The result can trigger the body’s most basic message that something is not right: pain. There are also other factors that may contribute to phantom pain, including damaged nerve endings, scar tissue at the site of the amputation and the physical memory of pre-amputation pain in the affected area.
Since the causes for phantom pain are not exactly known, there are not specific drugs to treat the condition. Some antidepressant or antiepileptics have been shown to have a beneficial effect on reducing phantom pain. If you suffer from phantom pain, talk to your health care provider.