Phantom Limb Pain May Be Reduced By Simple Mirror Treatment
ScienceDaily (Nov. 24, 2007) — Phantom limb pain occurs in at least 90% of limb amputees according to the research. Jack W. Tsao, M.D., D.Phil., assistant professor, Department of Neurology at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) conducted a sham-controlled trial using mirror and imagery therapy in patients who have had a foot or leg amputated.
Twenty-two patients at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. were assigned to one of three groups: one that viewed a reflective image of themselves in a mirror (mirror group); on that viewed a covered mirror; and one that was trained in mental visualization.
Eighteen patients completed the study with six in each group, and after one month of treatment 100% of the members in the mirror group reported less phantom pain, while only 17% reported a pain decrease and 50% reported worsening pain in the covered mirror group, and 67% reported worsening pain in the mental visualization group.
The study found that mirror therapy reduced phantom limb pain in patients who had undergone amputation of the lower limbs. Such pain was not reduced by either covered mirror or mental visualization treatments. These results suggest that mirror therapy may be helpful in alleviating phantom pain in lower limbs.
The study, titled “Mirror Therapy for Phantom Limb Pain,” was published in the November 22 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.