Phantom Limb Pain: Mirror Therapy Vs. Motor Imagery

855 words - 4 pages

Many amputees suffer from phantom limb, and phantom pain. Phantom limb can be described as the sensation of still having a certain body part and is moving accordingly (e.g. arm or leg) after the extremity has been amputated. People who experience phantom limb usually experience phantom pain, which is when the nerves at the end of amputated area cause pain or when a phantom limb seems stuck in an awkward or painful position. Ramachandran is a leading researcher in the field of phantom pain, and has done much research on mirror therapy and mirror neurons. On the other had Raffin shows research on phantom pain as well but in relation to motor imagery. Mirror therapy and motor imagery have both proven to be affective, and both have their advantages and disadvantages.

Mirror therapy works by the person with phantom limb pain places their say regular arm in front the shiny side of a mirror and the phantom on the back side of the mirror, then by moving the regular arm and watching the act in the mirror, the person can
then perceive their phantom extremity (Ramachandran, 2009). According to Ramachandran, a person feels phantom pain because there is nothing contradicting the pain, there is nothing saying that the pain is not there, mirror therapy fixes this by the person seeing the visual reflection of the real extremity with nothing there causing the pain in the now perceived extremity, the brain then rejects the pain signal and the signal is seen as false. On the other hand there is motor imagery. Motor imagery is used not
only for people with phantom limb but in relation to kinesiology. Motor imagery is when an individual mentally simulates a given action. According to Raffin (2010) since amputees experience the sensation but no actual movement the majority of patients with phantom limb can easily distinguish between internally imagining movement and externally experiencing movement. Motor imagery can help phantom patients imagine moving an amputated extremity to potentially help relive phantom pain.

Both mirror therapy and motor imagery have been used to assess and relieve phantom pain. Mirror therapy has been used to help phantom pain sufferers relieve their phantom pain. Mirror therapy does this by helping the phantom pain sufferer visually see their amputated extremity and therefore being able to release it from the painful position or just see that there is nothing there causing any pain on the amputated extremity (Ramachandran, 2009). According to Ramachandran (2009), this should help relieve the pain but depending on the patient’s imagery...

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