Phantom Limbs Post Amputation


Post amputation of a limb,  the human brain may create a neuromatrix.  This neuromatrix  in the brain can  cause the person who lost their limb to experience ‘phantom limbs.’ Like the movie franchised Matrix films, the brain is only perceiving the ‘phantom limb’ and/or any  pain and sensations they believe to be coming from where their lost limb was.

 This phenomena is still not completely understood. Nonetheless, it is real and is evidenced in hundreds of thousands of amputees.

For some, the ‘phantom limb’ not only feels sensations and pains at the site of the lost limb but the ‘phantom limb’ can feel so real that a person may actually try to stand or walk on a ‘phantom leg.’

What causes the brain to ‘feel’ a phantom limb?  Our brains have an internal model of our body pre-printed in it.  While we may logically understand our limb is no longer, the neuromatrix created in the brain after the loss of a limb, continues to believe the limb exists due to this pre-printed model of our body ingrained in our brain.

MRI’s of the brain confirm this.  When an amputee ‘feels’ the phantom limb the sensory areas of the brain associated with the limb location become quite active on MRI scans.  While no pain signals are actually being sent to the brain from the lost limb the ‘neuromatrix’ created in our brain keeps trying to interpret sensory experiences from the amputated limb location.

Fortunately, many amputees report that with the passing of time this phenomena lessens.  The brain gradually reorganizes how to adjust to the sensory loss and to the new image of our body post-amputation.

Some psychologists believe that this neuromatrix may result from how a person may choose to deal with the loss of their limb.  Some humans, ‘avoid’ feeling or thinking about the loss of their limb and the implication the loss has had on their life.  Psychologists believe that after an amputee has grieved the consequences of their lost limb and are reassured of their ‘normalcy’ post amputation this corresponds with a noticeable reduction of sensations from the phantom limb.

For instance, while a person whose arm was amputated may first report feeling an entire phantom arm and hand for the first months or years post amputation will decades later report only feeling a ‘hand’ on an occasional basis.

Getting emotionally better will be crucial to one’s recovery.  Support groups and counseling can help with issues and concerns of body image and social acceptance by others.

Economic recovery for a lost limb in a traumatic accident may include: recovery for the loss of skill the person had, recovery for loss of employment, recovery for loss of future employment, recovery for emotional suffering, recovery for potential wage loss due to future unemployment that may occur, counseling bills, family counseling costs, physical therapy expenses, future therapy expenses, diagnostic testing, future diagnostic testing, prescription medications, insurance co-payments , at-home rehabilitation costs, prosthesis costs, and the cost of future prosthetics.

Consult an experienced injury attorney lawyer to handle your claim.  Emotionally you and your loved ones may be spent and should devote at much energy and attention possible on recovery.  Allowing a personal injury attorney to handle your legal claim may help reduce some of the stress involved.

I’m Ed Smith of (Edward A Smith Law Offices) and have decades of experience in traumatic injury claims.  I can be reached at (916) 921-6400.  If you live in the nearby Stockton, Davis, and Placer area, feel free to instead use  (800) 404-5400.

Please feel comfortable with the lawyer you choose to hire.  You can learn more about my office and staff on Yelp, Google, Facebook and Avvo.

Image Attribution: By Malun112 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons









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