Clinicians from the University of Bath and the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases (RNHRD) have documented that therapy with a mirror can result in alleviation of chronic pain. Patients were simply asked to look at their healthy hand in the mirror:
This ‘cortical’ model of pain suggests that the brain’s image of the body can become faulty, resulting in a mismatch between the brain’s movement control systems and its sensory systems, causing a person to experience pain when they move a particular hand, foot or limb.
Researchers believe that this kind of problem could be behind a host of pain-related disorders, such as complex regional pain syndrome and repetitive strain injury.
In an investigation of whether this system can be corrected using mirrors to trick the brain, researchers asked a number of patients with complex regional pain syndrome (a chronic debilitating condition affecting 10,000 – 20,000 patients in the UK at any one time) to carry out routine exercises in front of a mirror.
More than half experienced pain relief during and after the exercise and further investigations showed that even greater improvements can be achieved if the tasks are practiced beforehand…
In a separate study published in the journal Rheumatology earlier this year, researchers from Bath, Cardiff and Exeter showed that it is possible to create sensations and feelings in one limb by looking at a reflection of the other limb in a mirror.
They asked 41 healthy people to sit with a mirror at right angles in front of them so that they could only see one side of their body at a time.
The volunteers were then asked to move their limbs in the same direction at the same time, and then in opposite directions whilst viewing the mirror reflection of one hand.
Within 20 seconds of starting, more than two thirds of people involved in the trial reported some kind of sensation in their hidden limb when the movement they were seeing in the mirror was different to what they were feeling in the hidden hand, for example by moving their hands in different directions.
The press release…