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ADVANCE Perspective: Physical Therapy & Rehab Medicine

Mirror Therapy

Published March 25, 2008 2:03 PM by Elizabeth Puliti
I recently read an article on CNN that described how amputees are benefitting from an unusual painkiller: mirrors.

In the story, Army Sgt. Nick Paupore was traveling in a Humvee in Kirkuk City, Iraq, when a roadside bomb struck his vehicle. The blast ripped out part of Papore's leg (including an artery), and left him with less than two pints of blood. Eventually he was taken to Germany where his life was saved, but his leg was not.

Following his life-saving surgery and subsequent amputation, Paupore experienced agonizing phantom limb pain. When the pain became too much, he joined Dr. Jack Tsao's clinical trial at Walter Reed Army Medical Center to test the mirror therapy theory.

What is mirror therapy? According to the article:

The patient sits on a flat surface with his or her remaining leg straight out and then puts a 6-foot mirror lengthwise facing the limb. The patient moves the leg, flexing it, and watches the movement in the mirror. The reflection creates the illusion of two legs moving together.

The mirror tricks the brain into "seeing" the amputated leg, overriding mismatched nerve signals.

For the amputees who experience debilitating phantom limb pain, mirror therapy may be just the solution that can help them rebuild their lives.


I can understand how this method could be of great assistance in helping people who have had strokes.  I was attacked by a patient (no--it was not a psy. pt.) ten years ago. Eventually I needed surgury--it wasn'tmy year---during the operation 3major nurves were cut.  Lots of P.T., accupuncture, and pain meds later I still have severe pain and restricted movement.  I would like to find a way to decrease the need for these things and be able to live amore useful life.  I will try to find more info on this typeof therapy.  I'm greatful that it is helping some people.   It's great to hear of researchers willing to look outside of the "box".

Jane Allen, nursing - RN, disabled December 23, 2008 3:23 PM
Pasadena MD

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