The phantom limb pain protocol



Following an amputation of almost any body part, the patient can experience phantom limb sensation, which is the feeling that the limb is still there, or phantom limb pain (PLP), which is pain that exists after the amputation. Often the pain after the amputation is the pain that existed before the amputation, somehow staying locked in the nervous system. In 1996 we did a pilot study, using a case series approach, with 7 amputees. We wanted to see if EMDR could be effective in treating PLP. We thought that PLP might be similar to PTSD, in that the event is over but the pain (emotional or physical) is still there, somehow embedded in the nervous system. In our case series, EMDR was found to be an effective treatment for PLP (complete elimination) in leg amputations. In most of the cases, pain disappeared within three sessions of treatment after the initial diagnostic interview. In general, the protocol for PLP consists of three parts: history-taking and relationship building, then targeting the trauma of the experience, and finally targeting the pain itself.


Book Section




Robert H. Tinker
Sandra A. Wilson

Original Work Citation

Tinker, R. H., & Wilson, S. A. (2005). The phantom limb pain protocol. In R. Shapiro (Ed.). EMDR solutions: Pathways to healing (pp. 147-159). New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Co



“The phantom limb pain protocol,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed June 19, 2021,

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