Phantom pain and phantom sensation
Some children and young people that have an acquired amputation may experience ‘phantom pain’ or ‘phantom sensation’. This means that the child feels and thinks that the lost limb is ‘still there’.
Phantom pain or phantom sensation can last a lifetime or subside over time, and most people who have lost a limb due to amputation will experience it at least once.
When only feeling, and no pain, is felt it is referred to as phantom sensation (eg. your child may experience pins and needles in the foot/hand that no longer exists or feel the need to scratch a shinbone that is no longer there).
Phantom pain and phantom sensation can range from mild to severe, brief to lengthy in duration, and can be distressing for children and parents. It can be debilitating and draining, and should not be dismissed.
If your child is experiencing phantom pain or phantom sensation it is a good idea to let educators or others know that it is something your child may experience from time to time. That person may not have heard of it before so you may need to explain what phantom pain and sensation is to them.
If your child does experience episodes of phantom pain, it is best that you discuss these issues with your health care team so they can assist with developing a treatment plan for your child.
There are a number of alternative means for treating phantom pain including: massage; acupuncture; acupressure; and, hot/cold compresses. Your Prosthetist is the best person to speak to about any pain or discomfort being experienced by your child and ways of addressing it.
Many universities continue to carry out studies on phantom pain in order to better understand it and find more effective ways of managing it.