Phantom vibration syndrome

Phantom vibration syndrome

Description, Causes and Risk Factors:

Electronic devices, such as pagers and cell phones, have become ubiquitous in the information age. In order to maintain electronic access in quiet areas, users often place such devices on "vibrate" mode. Repeated use of the vibration mode may result in intermittent perception that the device is vibrating when, in fact, it is not. This sensation sometimes referred to as phantom vibration syndrome. The exact prevalence has not been established. It is also not known what factors may increase the probability of experiencing phantom vibrations or which methods may be effective in dispelling them.

Phantom vibration syndrome may be experienced while taking a shower, watching television, or using a noisy device. Humans are particularly sensitive to auditory tones between 1,000 and 6,000 hertz, and basic mobile phone ringers often fall within this range. This frequency range can generally be more difficult to locate spatially, thus allowing for potential confusion when heard from a distance. False vibrations are less well understood, however, and could have psychological or neurological sources.

The true cause of phantom pain is still not known. Researches have explored many areas of neuropathy and physical affectations in attempts to determine what might cause a patient to feel pain from a part that no longer exists (or hasn't since birth). Many different studies have been done on phantom pain, but few have bothered to try and find a link between phantom pain and phantom vibration syndrome.

Researchers say that phantom vibration syndrome is experienced when we have become accustomed to our phones being in a certain location. Our nerves acclimate to certain responses. As such, when they decide to trigger, we feel that our phone may still be there, even though it is not. My proposal is that we rename both conditions, or at least place them under an umbrella of "Phantom Sensory Syndrome". It seems much more appropriate that we should consider these conditions linked, and in our neuroscience and neuropathic studies, use clues from each to find a common link and perhaps a cause. Armed with that, we may one day be fortunate enough to find a cure for both phantom pain and phantom vibration syndrome.

Electronic survey consisting of 17 questions about demographics, device use, phantom vibrations experienced, and attempts to stop them. Of the 169 participants who answered the question, 115 (68%, 95% confidence interval 61% to 75%) reported having experienced phantom vibrations. Most (68/112) who experienced phantom vibrations did so after carrying the device between 1 month and 1 year, and 13% experienced them daily. Four factors were independently associated with phantom vibrations: occupation (resident v attending physician, prevalence ratio 1.47, 95% confidence interval 1.10 to 1.97), device location (breast pocket v belt, prevalence ratio 1.66, 1.29 to 2.14), hours carried (per 6 hour increment, prevalence ratio 1.30, 1.07 to 1.58), and more frequent use in vibrate mode (per frequency category, prevalence ratio 1.18, 1.03 to 1.34). Of those who experienced phantom vibrations, 43 (39%, 30% to 48%) were able to stop them. Strategies for stopping phantom vibrations included taking the device off vibrate mode, changing the location of the device, and using a different device (success rates 75% v 63% v 50%, respectively, P=0.217). However, 39% (30% to 49%) of respondents did not attempt any strategies.

More than half the people on the planet now carry some sort of cellular phone, and many of these will set the device on vibrate mode at least some of the time. If two thirds of these people develop phantom vibrations — even if they are not very bothersome — then the global impact is substantial. If even a small proportion of users experience severe symptoms, then effective treatment will be required. More research is needed to understand why phantom vibration syndrome occurs and how to stop it. Once the etiology of phantom vibration syndrome is identified, users can take steps to avoid it, or at least to ameliorate the symptoms


Those who suffer from the affliction may experience symptoms with or without the presence of a mobile phone. This may include aconstant ringing or buzzing in your ears, anxiety, and depression. It is unknown if the source of the condition manifests from psychological or neurological sources.


It is important to seek out medical attention from a physician who understands the dynamics of phantom vibration syndrome. Because this health condition will require both physical treatment as well as mental health treatment, it will be important that you work with a physical who can manage both aspects of your pain and discomfort.


With the right balance of physical therapy, medications for neuropathic pain, and medications to treat anxiety and mental health, most cases of phantom vibration syndrome can be well controlled. In the short term as well as the long term, however, you will need to avoid using power tools at work and consideration may need to be made in changing careers and moving toward another line of work. For some injured workers, this may require not only a career change but also consideration into new educational paths.

While not all cases of phantom vibration syndrome lead to total disability, if you suffer from this type of health condition you can expect the condition will recur at some point in your life. It will be important, therefore, that once you are diagnosed with phantom vibration syndrome that you find other ways to alleviate your pain and to avoid re-developing the condition by returning to the same line of work. In the long term, the neuropathic pain associated with phantom vibration syndrome may only worsen and lead to further mental health complications.

NOTE: The above information is educational purpose. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.

DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.


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