Phantom limb pain (PLP) refers to ongoing painful sensations that seem to be coming from the part of the limb that is no longer there. The limb is gone, but the pain is real.
Phantom limb pain usually develops within the first few days after amputation. However, in some cases, the onset is delayed for months or even years. It is often associated with the phenomenon of “phantom sensation”, where patients perceive that their limb is present in its pre-amputation form. It may be associated with vivid feelings of movement in the missing limb. Over time, these sensations may change, with the distal part of the limb being felt to ‘telescope’ into the stump.
Some patients with phantom limb pain are reluctant to discuss their symptoms with their doctor for fear that they will be told the pain is “all in their head”. However, it is a well-recognized pain syndrome for which treatment is available; so, it is important to mention any pain that may be experienced.