After undergoing the amputation of a limb or other body part due to an accident, you may experience sensations as though the body part is still there. Such feelings are extremely common; almost everyone who undergoes an amputation reports some “phantom” sensation of this sort.
According to U.S. News and World Report, the phantom sensation may be painful, but this is not always the case. Some patients merely feel as though the missing limb is still there, which is sometimes pleasant for them. Some even report feeling movement of missing digits, e.g., fingers or toes. However, 85% to 95% of amputation patients experience a phantom sensation that they characterize as pain. It is important to note, however, that phantom pain does not necessarily occur immediately following an amputation. It may not develop for months or even years thereafter.
It is not entirely clear why some people experience phantom pain while others experience nonpainful sensations. The circumstances surrounding the amputation may have something to do with it. For example, if you lost your limb due to a traumatic accident, the sensations you experience may be different than if you had a planned procedure to remove a diseased limb that developed over time.
Patients who report phantom pain following amputation describe all sorts of different sensations. Some describe shooting or burning pain, while others describe a sensation similar to an electric shock. Sometimes patients report a tingling sensation or uncontrollable itching. You may experience a telescoping sensation of the limb shrinking inward, or you may feel that the limb has frozen in an uncomfortable position.
Phantom pain and sensation are not products of your imagination. There is a neurological basis for these symptoms, and your doctor may be able to relieve them if you report what you are feeling.