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A Study on Phantom Limb Pain

            Pain, as part of human existence, has been depicted from the time of the earliest cave paintings, through oral history and throughout written history. Pain is communicated through use of terms such as "aching," "burning," "throbbing," "pressure," and through other adjectives, gestures and facial expressions. This study will focus specifically on the phenonema known as "phantom limb pain," or PLP.
             First described more than 500 years ago, phantom limb pain (PLP) is a common disorder today; as many as 50% to 80% of patients who undergo amputation report experiencing pain in the missing appendage (Nikolajsen L, Jensen). Although it is easy to recognize and diagnose, its cause remains unclear, and it can be difficult to manage successfully. Perhaps that's why health care professionals often do not address it. A survey by Hanley and colleagues, for example, found that 53% of patients with PLP and 38% with severe PLP had never been treated for the disorder.
             The term "phantom limb- was first coined by American neurologist Silas Weir Mitchell in 1871 (Halligan, 2002). Mitchell described that "thousands of spirit limbs were haunting as many good soldiers, every now and then tormenting them- (Bittar et al., 2005). However, in 1551, French military surgeon Ambroise Paré recorded the first documentation of phantom limb pain when he reported that, "For the patients, long after the amputation is made, say that they still feel pain in the amputated part- (Bittar et al., 2005).
             Characteristics of PLP.
             Phantom pain, according to the Mayo Clinic, is pain that feels like it's coming from a body part that's no longer there. Doctors once believed this post-amputation phenomenon was a psychological problem, but experts now recognize that these real sensations originate in the spinal cord and brain. Although phantom pain occurs most often in people who've had an arm or leg removed, the disorder may also occur after surgeries to remove other body parts, such as the breast, penis, eye or tongue.

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