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The Picture of Health

Photonics Spectra
Dec 2005
Sally B. Patterson

Researchers at the University of Bath in the UK are investigating a therapy in which patients look in a mirror to ease pain. They are operating on the theory that the brain’s image of the body can become faulty, mismatching movement control and sensory systems and anticipating pain. This, they think, could contribute to such ailments as complex regional pain syndrome and repetitive strain injury.

To find out whether the imbalance might be corrected by viewing normal body movements, the investigators had patients with complex regional pain syndrome carry out routine exercises in front of a mirror. More than half of the patients experienced pain relief during and after the exercises. The brain, rather than acting on a prediction of dysfunction, responded to seeing a normally functioning limb. The work could lead to better therapeutic management of chronic pain.

"Take two long looks in the mirror and call me in the morning. ..."


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