Phantom Limb Pain and Mirror Therapy
Phantom limb pain (PLP) is a common chronic pain condition among amputees. This occurs as the result of losing one limb, leading to reorganization or rewiring within the brain which in turn causes sensations in the amputated limb.
Mirror therapy is an effective solution for alleviating Post Traumatic Neuralgia (PLP) pain, as it rewires the brain to fool itself into believing both limbs are still there. This can reduce or eliminate phantom limb pain and other unpleasant sensations experienced in an amputated limb.
Mirror therapy involves the patient sitting in front of a long mirror between their legs, watching the reflection of an intact limb. They then make movements as if using that limb – such as clapping.
Mirror therapy involves recording the patient’s movements on a video screen and playing them back to them as if they had used the intact limb. Studies have demonstrated that mirror therapy can reduce pain in amputated limbs, though this has not been confirmed for all cases of phantom limb discomfort.
Studies have demonstrated that amputation causes sensory input to be lost to the area representing the lost limb in the Primary Somatosensory Cortex, leading to reorganization or rewiring of neural connections and potential for phantom limb pain. However, recent evidence suggests a combination of physical therapy exercises combined with mirror therapy can reverse this process, providing relief from phantom limb discomfort.
This study sought to determine the effects of mirror therapy on phantom limb pain, mobility status and quality of life for amputees with lower limb amputation through a randomized controlled trial. A total of 24 amputees were enrolled and divided into two groups; interventional group and control group.
After four weeks of interventional group receiving mirror therapy and routine physiotherapy, pain levels significantly reduced compared to the control group. Additionally, mobility improved as well as SF-36 scores improved significantly.
This trial used various mental imaginary exercises along with mirror therapy to trick the patient’s brain into believing their painful phantom limb is not painful and can move. These techniques could be applied both to an amputated limb as well as a residual one.
This study is particularly intriguing, demonstrating how adding phantom exercises to mirror therapy and regular physiotherapy for four months can significantly improve phantom limb pain, mobility, and quality of life for amputees. These results suggest phantom exercises could be especially beneficial to individuals with amputations who receive regular mirror therapy treatments along with routine physical therapy treatments.