What is phantom pain?

Phantom pain is understood to include all sorts of painful feelings that are experienced in a missing part of the body.


Phantom limb pain can occur after surgery (amputation) or after losing a limb as the result of an accident. The precise cause of this pain is unknown, but an altered brain function could play a role. Phantom pain is more common after a double amputation, or amputation of the legs, and also when the amputation is at the top of an arm or a leg. If the patient experiences serious pain before or immediately after amputation, the chances of phantom pain are greater.


Phantom pain often starts within 14 days of amputation, with fifty percent of patients experiencing this pain within the first 24 hours. Some patients only develop phantom pain several years after amputation. Most phantom pain patients have paroxysmal pain, occurring daily or monthly. Some patients even experience pain-free periods of more than a year. The attacks of pain can last for a few seconds, or minutes or hours. It is usually a shooting, stabbing, stinging, cramping, pinching, or burning type of pain. It is usually felt beyond the missing limb.


Phantom feelings are non-painful feelings, such as warmth, tingling, feeling the extended fingers or toes, and feeling the shortening of a limb. Approximately fifty percent of patients also experience stump pain. Painful spots (trigger points) in the stump are often present and can provoke these feelings.

How is the diagnosis made?

The diagnosis is made on the basis of typical pain complaints.

Do I need any additional examinations?

  • Diagnostic examination for other non-physical factors important for your pain, have already been done by yourself trough filling out your pain questionnaires.
  • Often, no additional examinations are necessary.

What are the treatment possibilities?​

Multidisciplinary Treatment

Depending on the cause of your pain, your pain specialist will decide whether or not to embark on physical treatment. Based on the results of the completed pain questionnaire, additional examinations can be carried out and, as well as physical treatment, other methods of treatment will be suggested.

Non-physical Treatments

If the results of your pain questionnaire are abnormal, your pain specialist will suggest one of the non-physical treatments listed below:

Physical Treatments


Interventional Pain Treatments

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