You wake up one night with shooting pain in your left hand. It’s excruciating. You sit in bed waiting for it to subside, but it just won’t go away.
Which is strange, because you lost that hand in a workplace accident six months ago.
This is a real phenomenon experienced by many amputees, and it is known as phantom limb pain, or (PLP). It is not just in your head and is very real pain. You feel it just as if the limb was still there. Why does this happen?
The reason is just that the signals to your brain get mixed up. Pain, after all, comes from the brain. Your nerves feel the cause at the location, send a signal to your brain, and your brain makes you feel pain at that location. It’s a defense mechanism that allows you to know if something is causing damage to your body so that you can avoid it or seek a cure.
After an amputation, your brain can get confused and still get signals telling it that you are feeling painful sensations in that area. You’ll then feel the pain even though there are not actually any nerves extending into that area. Some experts say that this happens to most amputees and that it’s most common right after the incident, but that it fades in frequency as time goes by and your body adjusts.
Living with a long-term injury like an amputation can be difficult, and this is just one example of how it impacts your life. You need to know exactly what legal options you have if that injury leaves you with a disability that makes it impossible for you to work.