When a limb has been lost through an accident or amputation, the individual in question has a lot of major adjustments to deal with. Not least of these adjustments is something called phantom limb syndrome. It may be known as pseudesthesia, or pseudoesthesia. It also goes by the fascinating title of stump hallucination.
More than half of all amputees will experience this phantom sensory experience, temporarily or as a permanent condition.
The actual limb may be gone, but the physical sensations remain in full force. Despite all empirical evidence to the contrary, the arm or leg feels like it is still there.
Not only does it feel like the absent limb is still firmly attached, but it may feel like the arm or leg is moving, bending, changing position. This perception usually begins right after the removal of the arm or leg, and it can go on like this for years.
In some cases, the sensations may eventually begin to fade on its own. The reason for this is unknown.
But while the phantom limb syndrome is in operation, the physical manifestation of sensation is all too real. It may hurt. It may tickle. It may be numb or tingling. It may feel warm or cold, wet or prickly. It may be accompanied by a sense of pressure.
The cause for this perplexing condition has not been discovered, though there have been plenty of guesses as to its origins. At one time the insulting assumption was that this was some sort of psychological disorder.
One working theory at present is that the brain and nervous system is going through an enormous and complex process of readjusting to the absence of this body part and the brain is trying to work it out.
Phantom limb was first documented in the 16th century by Ambroise Pare who was a military surgeon. Silas Wier Mitchell was an American neurologist who first spoke about "phantom limb" after the Civil War, presumably because of the abundance of amputations that were necessitated by the war.
There are quite a variety of treatments available to try to bring some resolution to phantom limb syndrome, though results are not guaranteed.