Phantom Limb Pain

by  Chris Hoare 

It has nothing to do with ghosts, but Phantom Limb Pain is a perplexing and sometimes debilitating condition that affects individuals who have undergone amputations or experienced limb loss. Those who suffer from this condition report experiencing pain, itching, burning, and other sensations in the missing limb. These sensations can significantly reduce a person's quality of life, making simple daily tasks a constant struggle, just like any other form of chronic pain. 

Traditional approaches to managing phantom limb pain have yielded limited success. However, there is growing interest in using hypnotherapy to overcome this.

Before delving into hypnotherapy's role in eliminating phantom limb pain, it's helpful to understand the nature of this condition. Phantom limb pain occurs when the brain continues to create sensations of pain or discomfort in a missing limb. This phenomenon highlights the complex nature of pain perception and the brain's role in it. If you’ve never seen the Fake Arm Experiment, it is worth searching for on YouTube.

Traditional approaches to managing phantom limb pain, such as medications, physical therapy, and nerve blocks, often fall short of providing lasting relief. This is where innovative techniques like hypnotherapy come into play.

Professor Lorimer Moseley, an Australian pain scientist and researcher, has made significant contributions to understanding pain perception and its management. His work has opened up new possibilities for treating phantom limb pain, particularly through the use of hypnotherapy.

Professor Moseley's work in this area is groundbreaking because he has shown that pain is not dependent on physical factors but is highly influenced by the brain's interpretation of sensory input. In the case of chronic pain there might not be any sensory input at all, and yet the brain still creates what we perceive as pain.

Experiments have demonstrated that our perception of pain is not fixed.  Research suggests that the brain can be trained to reduce or even eliminate phantom limb pain through mental conditioning. The effectiveness of hypnotherapy in achieving this lies in its ability to tap into the brain's neuroplasticity; in simple terms, it rewires the brain’s pain response, often with remarkable speed

Hypnotherapy has several advantages when used in this area. Firstly it is non-invasive; unlike surgical interventions, hypnotherapy does not carry the risks associated with other medical procedures. Secondly it offers a drug-free alternative, reducing the potential for side effects or dependency on pain medications. Furthermore, hypnotherapy can be personalised to address the unique experiences and needs of each individual.


Phantom limb pain has historically been a challenging condition, one that has long evaded traditional treatment methods. New discoveries and ideas on the nature of pain are changing this. As ongoing research in this field continues to evolve, the promise of hypnotherapy as a valuable and innovative treatment option for phantom limb pain becomes significantly more apparent.