Understanding Pain in the Residual Limb: Causes and Treatments for Amputees

Living as an amputee can present various challenges. One significant issue is managing pain in the residual limb, or stump. This pain can stem from multiple sources each requiring different approaches for relief. Here, we’ll explore the common causes of stump pain and stump ulcers and discuss effective treatments to help improve comfort and quality of life.

Common Causes of Stump Pain and how to treat:


Scars, particularly those from skin grafts, do not often cause much discomfort since they lack nerve endings. However, the normal skin around the scars can be sensitive, especially if there are neuromas (cut nerve endings) or if the scars become overly thick. Surgical treatments for painful scars are available but need to be tailored to each individual’s situation.


Neuromas are a common source of pain for amputees. These are bundles of cut nerve endings that have grown into a ball and can become highly sensitive, especially when they are squeezed. Surgical options like RPNI (Regenerative Peripheral Nerve Interface) and TMR (Targeted Muscle Reinnervation) are often necessary to provide relief.

Phantom Limb Pain

Phantom limb pain is the sensation of pain in the missing part. It can be effectively treated using various methods, including:

  • Osseointegration surgery
  • TMR surgery
  • RPNI surgery
  • Mirror therapy
  • Augmented reality

These treatments work by providing feedback to the brain, helping to normalize the sensation and reduce pain.


Folliculitis occurs when hair follicles on the stump become inflamed due to constant irritation from the prosthetic socket. To manage this, complete hair removal is often necessary. Options include:

  • Hair removal products
  • Waxing
  • Laser hair removal

Skin Cysts and Ulcers

Skin cysts form when glands or hair follicles become blocked, sometimes leading to a condition called hidradenitis suppurativa, characterized by multiple painful cysts. Treatment involves surgical removal of the cysts, but prevention through regular hair removal or considering alternatives like osseointegration (which eliminates the need for a socket) is preferable.

Skin ulcers develop due to excessive rubbing or pressure within the socket. Since the skin on the stump isn’t designed to bear weight, ulcers are common. Surgical removal of ulcers is possible, but the underlying cause (e.g., a poorly fitting socket) must be addressed to prevent recurrence.


Bursas are small fluid-filled sacs that form due to friction between the free end of the bone and the soft tissues of the stump. When these become inflamed, they cause pain. Treatments include steroid injections to reduce inflammation or surgical removal of the bursa. Unfortunately bursas tend to reform quickly since they are a normal healing response to protect the bone. The only way to ensure a bursa does not form is to prevent the movement of the bony end with the stump through osseointegration.

Pain in the residual limb can significantly impact an amputee’s life, but understanding the causes and available treatments can help manage and reduce discomfort. If you’re experiencing stump pain or stump ulcers, contact us to explore the best treatment options for your situation. Regular attention to your stump’s condition and exploring advanced treatment options like osseointegration can make a significant difference in your comfort and overall quality of life.