Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Phantom Pain

 Phantom pain is the intense discomfort experienced by approximately ninety percent of amputees (Rosenblum 142). It is thought to result from over exuberant neuroplasticity, in other words your neural networks are rewiring, reorganizing, and making new connections to compensate for damaged or adjusted ones. In the reading, phantom pain is discussed in Chapter Six through a man named Ben Curry who accidentally cut his toe which subsequently became afflicted with gangrene. Because the gangrene damage was so severe, he had to have his leg amputated. Curry reported his pain as moderate, and experienced symptoms such as itching, burning, and tingling in the missing toe and leg area. The symptoms Curry expressed are very common according to Amputee Coalition alongside some more moderate to severe ones (amputee-coalition.org). 

Photo Credit: The Lancet

I first heard of this condition through my uncle who lost his left leg in a freak accident: he was cutting down a tree that fell in the wrong direction and impaled his leg into the ground. Thankfully he was rushed to the hospital in time and while they were not able to save anything below the knee, they were able to save his life. While he is assisted through a prosthesis (artificial leg), his journey has not been easy. Not only does he have to overcome the challenges of not having a leg and the associated trauma of the event, but is also frequently symptomatic with phantom pains. He often reports a sharp stinging and intense pain that feels like shockwaves dispersing through his entire leg. Even with all of these inhibitors, my uncle avidly hunts, fishes, swims, landscapes, undergoes home DIY projects, works, and drives his truck - he has been doing so strongly and admirably for twenty years come this September.

There are many different ways to "treat" phantom pains through medicated means, non-medicated means, or a combination of both. Some examples include muscle relaxants, antidepressants, acupuncture, massage, and more (amputee-coalition.org). However, these approaches do not work for everyone and the length of time in which an amputee may experience phantom pain differs from person to person.

Works Cited

Rosenblum, L. D. (2010). See What I'm Saying: The Extraordinary Powers of Our Five Senses. W.W. Norton & Company.

Amputee Coalition. (n.d.). Managing Phantom Pain. https://www.amputee-coalition.org/limb-loss-resource-center/resources-for-pain-management/managing-phantom-pain/


  1. Hello Deonna!
    I liked the topic you picked for the discussion post. I never heard of Phantom Pain until reading the assigned book. I like how you went into detail on what Phantom Pain was and then connected it to the book about Ben Curry cutting his toe which then became gangrene damage. I am sorry to hear that your uncle lost his leg in an accident. But I am glad he is overcoming the challenges he is facing. I have to agree there are different ways of treating phantom pain but, everyone's body is different and it does not work for everyone. I enjoy reading your discussion post! Good Job!

  2. I enjoy learning about this topic of phantom pain! I had heard about this before in previous classes but your discussion post clarified a lot of questions I had. It is so interesting how the brain adjusts to a trauma like losing a limb. I am glad to hear your uncle has overcome many challenges he has faced!

  3. Hi Deonna! I was going to cover this topic because I personally suffer from phantom pain but you did an excellent job explaining! I'm a double amputee from the knee down. I started dealing with phantom pain in 2014 when my left leg was amputated. It was easier to deal with then because if I was feeling pain or sensations on my left leg, I could touch that part of my right leg to trick my brain. Now that I am a double, it's harder to deal with. Sometimes I still try to look for shoes when I get dressed to match my outfit. The stinging and intense pain is some of the worst pain. That at times is due to nerve pain. I take medicine daily 3x to help with the nerve pain. It helps.

  4. Hi Deonna, as a hopeful future doctor, I actually know quite a bit about Phantom Limb Syndrome. It's an experience that is extremely hard to deal with, and is impossible to imagine. I admire how you talked about your uncle and possible "treatments".