Pain memories in phantom limbs: a case study

A Hill, C A Niven, C Knussen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


Pain experienced in a limb prior to amputation may influence the course of phantom limb pain many months later. Katz and Melzack (1990)found that 42% of their sample reported a ‘somatosensory pain memory’ which resembled the quality and location of a painful, or non-painful pre-amputation sensation. For many amputees, pain memories are vivid experiences which incorporate both emotional and sensory aspects of the pre-amputation pain (Katz 1992). Katz and Melzack (1990)suggest that sensory input will ‘trigger’ somatosensory pain memories while the affective component of a pain memory is generated by the intensity, quality and location of the current experience of phantom limb pain. The present case study used a diary design to examine whether ‘triggers’ could be identified for somatosensory pain memories. Over a 9-month period, the patient reported daily experience of ongoing phantom limb pain, generally confined to the distal part of the limb, and 5 episodes of injury-related phantom limb pain, primarily experienced in the calf of the missing limb. A ‘trigger’ was identified for each of the episodes of injury-related phantom limb pain, and a significant finding in this study was that two episodes of injury-related phantom limb pain were associated with cognitive and/or emotional, rather than sensory ‘triggers’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)381-384
Number of pages4
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1996


  • phantom limb pain
  • somatosensory pain memories
  • triggers


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