Frequently, people who have lost a limb either through an accident or amputation have the feeling that they still possess the limb even years afterwards.
This phenomenon is known as the 'phantom limb'.
One man who had had his right leg amputated at the age of 14, could sense the presence of the limb even 34 years later! He claimed he could stretch it and wriggle his toes. Sometimes it would itch and he would attempt to scratch it.
Another man felt excruciating pain in the 'phantom limb' for more than 15 years after it had been amputated.
In the case of some amputees who have lost an arm, the phantom limb appears to grow shorter and shorter as the years go by till finally the person gets the feeling that the palm and fingers are attached to the shoulder.
What's the explanation for the phantom limb? It is thought that the phenomenon occurs because the severed nerves in the body continue to send signals to the brain. The brain out of habit continues to interpret these signals as coming from the arm or leg these nerves used to serve.