Due to potential medication side effects, the use of non-drug therapies for pain management is gaining momentum. A more encompassing view for pain strategies is helpful. One novel intervention that capitalizes on brain remodeling, or neuroplasticity, is Mirror therapy. This therapy was developed by Dr. Ramachadran in the mid 1990’s to help people with phantom limb pain; pain in a limb that has been amputated. Patients gaze at a mirror image of the not effected body part to replace the image of the painful limb.
A recent article in Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation illustrates another use of Mirror Therapy in patients with a specific nerve pain syndrome, complex regional pain syndrome, occurring after a stroke. Patients using mirror therapy performed movements with the arm that was not involved by the stroke and while looking at the mirror, imagined that the reflection belonged to the affected arm. After 4 weeks of therapy, the group that added Mirror Therapy to rehabilitation program showed greater improvement in motor function and pain perception.
For an enlightening description of Dr. Ramachadran’s discovery and the science of neuroplasticity, I recommend the book, The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge, MD. http://www.normandoidge.com/?page_id=1259.