Lumbar Disc Herniation Can Cause Stump Pain

Phantom pain and/or stump pain are experienced by approximately 80 percent of people who have undergone amputations. Phantom pain, the feeling of pain in a limb that is no longer there, isn't completely understood. Often described as burning, aching, or cramping, phantom pain does seem to improve eventually for many. Stump pain, on the other hand, appears to originate from the nerves at the amputation site and has been described as pressing, throbbing, burning, or squeezing.

The authors of this article describe the case of a 41-year-old man who had complained of severe stump pain two years after undergoing a left leg amputation following a motor vehicle accident. At this point, the stump pain had been unrelenting for the previous 15 days and the patient rated it at 100 on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being the most severe ever.

After examining the patient for anything that could be causing the stump pain, such as infection, tissue breakdown, wounds, or edema (swelling from fluid), the doctors were unable to pinpoint the cause of the pain.

In the orthopedic department, the doctors x-rayed the stump without discovering any indication of the cause. They injected the stump with a local anesthetic without any relief reported by the patient. At this point, the doctors performed a lumbar magnetic resonance imaging scan (MRI) when they located that a disc had herniated at the L4-5 level.

Following surgery for the disc herniation, the patient was pain free (reporting zero out of 100) and was able to wear his prosthesis.

The authors conclude that although this cause of stump pain is rare, it is a possibility and should be kept in mind when diagnosing stump pain.

Erkin Sonmez, MD, et al. Lumbar disc herniation as a rare cause of stump pain. In Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine. April 2008. Vol. 8. Pp. 398-399.

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