Phantom limb pain at Walter Reed: Mirror therapy works

Posted by: Tedstaff

A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine offers new details on how mirror therapy addresses phantom limb pain — a topic covered by Vilayanur Ramachandran in his 2007 TEDTalk.

Inspired by Dr. Ramachandran’s work, a team of researchers from military hospitals tested a group of 22 patients with amputated lower limbs, and found that:

After 4 weeks of treatment, 100% of patients in the mirror group reported a decrease in pain (median change on the visual-analogue scale, –24 mm; range, –54 to –13), but two patients had brief reactions (<2 minutes) of grief on viewing the reflected intact lower limb.

A story on CNN.com this week tells the story of one of the authors of the study, Navy researcher Dr. Jack Tsao, in accessible, fascinating detail. Read the CNN story >>

Comments (2)

  • Matthias Weinberger commented on Apr 1 2008

    For those who want to know more about this kind of treatment and the science behind it – check out my series of blog posts:

  • Jeisea Ni commented on Mar 21 2008

    I’m very happy to see that research is being undertaken into mirror therapy. It works for chronic and in some cases acute pain. Mirror visual imagery retrains the brain so its use for pain treatment goes well beyond Phantom Limb Pain. I have Complex Regional Pain Syndrome and know using a mirror for single sided pain stops the pain and the symptoms that go with it. It’s used to treat stroke patients. Mirror therapy utilizes the new understanding of the part the brain plays in pain.You cannot feel pain unless the brain interprets a message of pain. This research is a beginning. Much more needs to be done to prove beyond doubt the effectiveness of this simple, inexpensive and very effective treatment for pain.