Posted October 13, 2015

Mirrors may reduce pain in injured combat veterans

Picture of a simple hand-held mirror
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The reflection in a mirror could lessen the pain experienced by injured combat veterans.

A mirror could help lessen the pain experienced by combat veterans with complex orthopedic injuries or nerve damage to the limbs. That's the premise behind a new study being conducted by Eric Altschuler, associate professor of physical medicine at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine.

Referred to as "mirror therapy," this rehabilitative technique uses a common mirror to display a reflection of the patient’s healthy arm or leg where the injured limb would be. When the patient moves his or her healthy limb, the mirror provides the optical illusion that the injured limb is moving at the same time. For reasons not entirely understood, this seems to trick the brain into believing that the injured limb is functioning normally. This in turn can reduce pain and spasms in the injured limb.

“Mirror therapy has been shown to relieve phantom pain in amputees, but this pilot study could prompt doctors to consider this kind of therapy for patients with upper extremity injuries," said Altschuler. 

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