Amputations can have a deep impact on your psychological health. Some of the most immediate side effects you may experience are phantom pains.
After losing a limb, you may sometimes feel like your limb is still part of your body. The Mayo Clinic says that you may feel pain in this missing limb, a phenomenon known as phantom pain. You may notice this pain in the initial days after your procedure. However, sometimes these sensations may take several months to materialize.
Why do phantom pains occur?
Doctors think these pains occur because your brain receives mixed signals. Your brain used to have neurological connections to your limb. After the amputation, your brain no longer receives signals from this part of the body. As the brain adjusts, it may change some of the sensory circuitry in your body so that it still receives the information it needs. However, these changes may result in pain.
Phantom pains may also stem from growths on your nerve endings. Additionally, the memory of pain can result in this phenomenon. If you experienced chronic aches in your knee, for example, you may feel phantom pains in this area after the amputation because your brain expects to receive pain signals.
What are the symptoms?
Your phantom pains may manifest themselves in many ways. You may feel like your missing limb is always in pain or you may only feel this pain periodically. This phenomenon may feel like a burning or shooting sensation. However, you may also feel that your missing limb is cramping.
Phantom pain may sometimes improve in the months and years after your amputation. However, sometimes you may need to work with a doctor to find a way to manage this pain.