Mirror therapy for phantom limb


This article highlights a therapy that has been used in some form for a couple of years for both phantom limb pain and complex regional pain syndrome

It seems that visual feedback using a mirror to reflect the intact limb in the place of the amputated or dysfunctional limb can ‘fool’ the brain into thinking that it is getting normal feedback and therefore reduce or replace pain with normal sensation.

I’ll post more on this technique in the future, but for now the article above gives a brief taste of it, while for those who are keen to find out more from a scholarly angle should think of reading “Mirror treatment of lower limb phantom pain: A case study” Malcolm MacLachlan; Dympna McDonald; Justine Walochc, Journal Disability & Rehabilitation, Volume 26, Issue 14 & 15 July 2004 , pages 901 – 904, or “A controlled pilot study of the utility of mirror visual feedback in the treatment of complex regional pain syndrome (type 1)” C. S. McCabe, R. C. Haigh, E. F. J. Ring, P. W. Halligan1, P. D. Wall and D. R. Blake, Rheumatology 2003; 42: 97-101. As you can see, this is not a new treatment!

If you’re wanting something quite quick to read on it, this editorial by Moseley and Gandevia gives a pretty good outline of both the concept and the neurology underpinning the approach.

This approach continues to be interesting and provide some hope for people with what is otherwise a challenging pain to manage – a word of caution needs to be added though: some people experience very unpleasant responses to a mirrorbox, others have little change, and still others experience only temporary change. Mirrorbox treatment like any other approach to chronic pain can’t be seen as a ‘cure all’.

Don’t forget – comments, questions or your experience using some of the techniques mentioned in this blog are welcome! I do respond well to comments! 🙂

2 comments

  1. Thanks for your comment Heather – I’ll be posting a more ‘applied’ version of this soon – plus some practical things I’ve learned from the work at Pain Management Centre, Burwood.

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