Variation in phantom limb pain: results of a diary study

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2001 Nov;22(5):947-53. doi: 10.1016/s0885-3924(01)00356-6.


Amputees experience multiple, complex problems in addition to phantom limb pain. Although studies have yielded useful data on the relationship between phantom limb pain and other variables, this research generally has evaluated only one aspect of phantom limb pain and measured it at only one time point. The present study examined ongoing phantom limb pain and associated factors prospectively through the use of hourly pain diaries that are completed over a 7-day period. The sample comprised a subset of 89 lower limb amputees taking part in a longitudinal research study. Subjects had a mean age of 46.1 years. Forty-seven per cent were female, 53% male. Subjects completed a Pain/Coping Diary that measured phantom limb pain intensity, activity levels, medication use, and alcohol use on an hourly basis over a 7-day period. It also asked subjects to list the coping strategies used on the same hourly basis over a 7-day period. The diaries highlighted the following: Phantom limb pain appears to be episodic in nature and there is great variation in its intensity. Amputees use a limited repertoire of coping strategies to deal with episodes of phantom limb pain, and of those strategies that are used, few reduce the level of pain. This variability in phantom limb pain has important implications for those involved in the care of amputees as a report of phantom limb pain at a given point in time may not reflect the amputee's overall pain experience.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Records*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Pain / psychology
  • Pain Measurement
  • Phantom Limb / physiopathology*
  • Phantom Limb / psychology