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What causes phantom limb pain after an amputation?

No one knows exactly what causes phantom limb pain. However, tests show activity in the brain when the pain is felt, so phantom limb pain is believed to come from the nervous system.

After a limb has been amputated, the parts of the nervous system that used to receive information from that limb can become confused. They sense that something is wrong or different, and the body experiences this sensation as pain.

Another possible cause is that after a limb is removed, the parts of the nervous system once connected to that limb may readjust so that they connect to a different part of the body. When that part of the body is touched, it seems as though the missing limb is being touched, too. The resulting confusion may lead the amputee to feel pain.

Other things, such as scar tissue and damage to nerves, can also contribute to phantom limb pain.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.