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Phantom limb pain occurs when the nerve endings at the amputated limb send erroneous pain signals to the brain. This pain can range from mild to extreme, but it usually disappears, or at least decreases, over time. If a person feels phantom limb pain after six months, the chance for spontaneous improvement is poor. Sometimes, even if the nerves are not sending signals, the brain tells itself that the limb is still there and creates its own pain at the amputation site. Other sensations, such as heat, cold and cramping may also be felt in the removed limb.
There are several different treatments for phantom limb pain, and the treatment depends on the type of pain. Treatments include application of heat, biofeedback, massage and physical therapy. Relaxation techniques may also be used. More severe cases of phantom limb pain may need transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (using a TENS Unit) of the residual limb, neurostimulation (spinal cord or deep brain stimulation) or surgery to remove scar tissue that may have entangled a nerve.