Mental Imagery and Mirror Therapy

Mirror Therapy

Mental imagery and mirror therapy are primarily used with stroke and amputee patients to help alleviate pain and restore regular motor function.

Mental Imagery Therapy

Mental imagery therapy is a treatment strategy used by physical and occupational therapists to improve mobility and function.  Patients are provided with a mental imagery program that targets a specific functional goal and uses images from their everyday life.  Mental imagery is used to link the patient goal with a functional and therapeutic goal.  The imagery activity causes the brain to “exercise” without the need for physical movement.

Mental imagery is proven to work with patients after stroke  and may also be used with patients who have other diagnoses, such as Parkinson’s, MS, brain injury or amputation.

Mirror Therapy

In patients with a diagnosis of stroke, mirror therapy has been found to improve some measures of strength impairment and upper limb activity. Mirror therapy combined with a conventional stroke rehabilitation program has been shown to enhance lower-extremity motor recovery and balance in subacute stroke patients.

Mirror therapy has been found to improve phantom limb pain and phantom limb sensations following amputation of a limb. Mirror therapy combined with conventional amputee rehabilitation programs and nursing management has been shown to decrease phantom limb pain and phantom limb sensation in the amputated extremity.

The mirror is placed in the mid-sagittal plane between the affected and non-affected extremities with the affected extremity placed out of sight (inside box, behind mirror). The patient focuses on the mirror movements of the unaffected extremity. Activities may include simple active movements, functional movements with objects, or sensory stimulation.

The goals and benefit of this therapy include:

  • Decreased phantom limb pain
  • Decreased phantom limb sensation
  • Improved functional independence
  • Improved upper extremity motor recovery, activity, and function
  • Improved lower extremity motor recovery
  •  Improved unilateral spatial neglect
  • Improved upper extremity sensorimotor function
  • Increased cortical reorganization of the brain