Mirror Eases Phantom Limb Pain

Reflection of healthy appendage helps fool brains of amputees
By John Lister,  Newser User
Posted Nov 23, 2007 8:44 PM CST
Walter Reed Army Medical Center   (KRT Photos)
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(Newser) – The phantom pain amputees experience from a missing limb can be dramatically reduced if they view their remaining leg or foot in a mirror, Reuters reports. The mirror tricks the brain into thinking the amputated limb is intact, researchers conclude. A controlled study of injured soldiers at Walter Reed found the technique dropped pain levels by 75%.

Medication has no effect on an amputee's sensation of pain where a missing limb should be, and intentionally imagining that the limb was present actually made the pain worse, the study found. But the mirror technique is thought to help the brain reconcile what the patient sees and feels. Similar tests are planned for arm amputees.