Mirror therapy for pain

University of Bath researchers report that people with particular kinds of persistent hand pain could ease the ouch by looking at their healthy hand in the mirror. From a press release:
This ‘cortical’ model of pain suggests that the brain’s image of the body can become faulty, resulting in a mismatch between the brain’s movement control systems and its sensory systems, causing a person to experience pain when they move a particular hand, foot or limb.

Researchers believe that this kind of problem could be behind a host of pain-related disorders, such as complex regional pain syndrome and repetitive strain injury.

In an investigation of whether this system can be corrected using mirrors to trick the brain, researchers asked a number of patients with complex regional pain syndrome (a chronic debilitating condition affecting 10,000 – 20,000 patients in the UK at any one time) to carry out routine exercises in front of a mirror.

More than half experienced pain relief during and after the exercise and further investigations showed that even greater improvements can be achieved if the tasks are practiced beforehand.