What Are Some Ways to Use Mirror Boxes?


Quick Answer

Mirror boxes are used to help treat phantom limb pain in people who have had body parts amputated. The patient places his injured limb inside the box, and positions the uninjured limb in front of the mirror. The patient moves both limbs together in symmetrical exercises, and the reflected image of the good limb tricks the brain's sensory system into believing that all is well with the amputated limb. Vilayanur Ramachandran invented mirror box therapy.

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Full Answer

While some small scale research has found promising results for mirror box therapy, there is no consensus as to how effective it really is. Along with phantom pain, mirror boxes are used to treat mobility problems with existing limbs. Mirror boxes occasionally form part of a surgical rehabilitation program, particularly if a patient is having trouble recovering from a hand surgery.

Other forms of treatment for people suffering from phantom limb pain include antidepressants, spinal cord stimulation, acupuncture and biofeedback. Most treatments are ineffective, although painkillers such as Morphine may be helpful over long periods. Whether or not mirror box therapy is effective appears to depend on how well the patient can internalize the view of the reflected limb as his own, although it remains impossible to guess how successful the therapy could be for a given patient.

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