Mirror therapy is a type of motor imagery whereby the patient moves his unaffected limb while watching the movement in a mirror; this in turn sends a visual stimulus to the brain to promote movement in the affected limb. Some of the effects of mirror therapy on the brain have already been demonstrated. A crossover study on healthy individuals by Garry, Loftus & Summers (2004) showed that viewing the mirror image of an individual’s active hand increased the excitability of neurons in the ipsilateral primary motor cortex significantly more than viewing the inactive hand directly (no mirror). The study also found a trend toward significance in favour of viewing a mirror image of the active hand compared to viewing the active hand directly (no mirror).
While numerous studies have investigated the use of mirror therapy on the upper extremity following stroke, there is a limited body of evidence regarding lower extremity mirror therapy. As more studies become available, the benefits and use of mirror therapy with the lower extremity can be better understood. In order to gain a clearer appreciation for the effect of mirror therapy on lower extremity outcomes, this review includes studies where mirror therapy is provided to the intervention group in isolation rather than as a combined treatment (e.g. mirror therapy with repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation).
Please also see our Mirror Therapy – Upper Extremity module for studies that have investigated the use of mirror therapy with the upper limbs.
Authors*: Annabel McDermott, OT; Adam Kagan, B.Sc.; Samuel Harvey-Vaillancourt, PT U3; Shahin Tavakol, PT U3; Dan Moldoveanu, PT U3; Phonesavanh Cheang, PT U3; Elissa Sitcoff, BA BSc; Nicol Korner-Bitensky, PhD OT
Evidence reviewed as of before 01-11-2018