Mirror Therapy Rehabilitation
Mirror therapy rehabilitation has helped many people control their pain independently and in their home environment. It can also help increase movement in a limb, for example, following a stroke. Although initially developed for amputees to control phantom limb pain, it is now commonly used for many different conditions. Some of these conditions include stroke, chronic regional pain syndrome (CRPS) and arthritis.
Pain, Managing It
Reduction in pain is vital to improve quality of life. Pain can cause psychological problems resulting in sleep disorders, anxiety and depression, as well as deterioration in sexual and marital life and family relationships, which lead to social isolation. Using mirror therapy can allow you to manage your pain without having to rely on medications. It is simple, less labor intensive, and less expensive than other types of intervention.
Function & Independence
Mirror therapy can also help improve function. This is important to increase independence. It has been shown that mirror therapy combined with a conventional rehabilitation program enhances lower-extremity motor recovery and motor functioning in stroke patients and improves recovery of arm function. The National Clinical Guideline for Stroke states that the studies undertaking mirror therapy do appear to show some promising results and further research studies are needed.
The brain is known to be “plastic”. Things you do, change the way the limb is represented in the brain. After any injury, the representation of the limb in the brain may be smaller. The degree of this reorganization correlates with the amount of pain experienced.
Mirror therapy involves using a mirror to “trick” the brain into thinking the affected limb is okay. During mirror therapy treatment exercises, the affected limb is covered and hidden behind a mirror. The movement of the good limb is reflected in the mirror, allowing the brain to think the affected limb is moving freely.
The mirror visual feedback therapy uses the brain’s prioritization of visual feedback over the sensation of the limb. The visual feedback from the reflection helps to drive proprioception in the affected limb. Using this illusion helps normalize the movement process. It re-introduces a normal relationship between physical movement and sensory feedback.
It has been shown that reorganization of the brain is partially reversed using mirror therapy and this corresponds with a reduction in pain. This is because using mirror therapy helps “rewire” the brain back to its normal state, hence decrease the pain. The brain will start to “learn” that this limb is okay and therefore will start to move it more easily.