What Is “Mirror Therapy?”

I just got a very interesting email from Yaffa Lieberman who heads up our unrivaled post-acute rehab programs at each of our facilities.

We will soon be incorporating “Mirror Therapy” at each of our facilities.

The principle of mirror therapy (MT) is the use of a mirror to create a reflective illusion of an affected limb in order to trick the brain into thinking movement has occurred without pain. It involves placing the affected limb behind a mirror, which is sited so the reflection of the opposing limb appears in place of the hidden limb. A Mirror box is a device which allows the clinician to easily create this illusion. It’ is a box with one mirror in the center where on each side of it, the hands are placed in a manner that the affected limb is kept covered always and the unaffected limb is kept on the other side whose reflection can be seen on the mirror.


Mirror therapy was invented by Vilayanur S. Ramachandran to help alleviate the Phantom limb pain, in which patients feel they still have a pain in the limb even after having it amputated.

Ramachandran and Rogers-Ramachandran first devised the technique in an attempt to help those with phantom limb pain resolve what they termed a ‘learned paralysis’ of the painful phantom limb. The visual feedback, from viewing the reflection of the intact limb in place of the phantom limb, made it possible for the patient to perceive movement in the phantom limb. Their hypothesis was that every time the patient attempted to move the paralyzed limb, they received sensory feedback (through vision and Proprioception) that the limb did not move. This feedback stamped itself into the brain circuitry through a process of Hebbian learning, so that, even when the limb was no longer present, the brain had learned that the limb (and subsequent phantom) was paralyzed. To retrain the brain, and thereby eliminate the learned paralysis, Ramachandran and Rogers-Ramachandran created the mirror box.




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