Authors: Tatiana Ogourtsova, MSc BSc OT, Annabel McDermott, OT, Erica Kader; Emilie Belley, BA Psychology, BSc PT; Josee-Anne Filion; Alison Nutter; Mathilde Parent-Vachon; Marie Saulnier; Stephanie Shedleur, Bsc PT; Tsz Ting Wan, BSc PT; Elissa Sitcoff, BA BSc; Nicol Korner-Bitensky, PhD OT
It has been used to improve strength, increase hip movements, and improve postural control in the elderly, as well as treat people who have health problems, including injury to the spinal cord, Parkinson’s disease, or fibromyalgia (general muscle pain). It is especially useful for people with problems with the arms, legs, and hands.
There are two distinct types of motor imagery:
- Kinaesthetic motor imagery – imagining the feeling associated with performing a movement.
- Visual motor imagery – imagining the movement itself.
An example of a motor imagery session for a person with a weakened arm might include:
- 5 minutes of listening to a tape recording of relaxation techniques
- 20 minutes of exercises related to motor imagery. In week one the mental imagery training involves using computer images and movies to analyze steps and sequences required to successfully complete a task ie. reaching for a cup or turning a page in a book. In week two, patients are trained to identify problems they are having with the tasks and correct them using mental imagery. In the third week, they practice the corrected tasks mentally as well as perform the actual tasks.
- The session concludes with time given to the individual to refocus on the room around them.
Experts have done experiments to compare mental imagery with other treatments, to see if mental imagery helps people who have had a stroke.
- Was more helpful than the usual treatment alone for improving self-care skills (e.g. dressing and shopping);
- Was as helpful as other treatments for improving thinking skills (e.g. attention) and motor function of the arms and legs.
- Was more helpful than the usual treatment alone for improving walking speed;
- Was as helpful as other treatments for improving self-care skills (e.g. dressing) and physical skills of the arms and legs, including mobility, dexterity and grip strength.
- Was more helpful than the usual treatment alone for improving balance, walking speed, and motor function of the arms and legs;
- Was as helpful as other treatments for improving self-care skills (e.g. dressing and shopping) and spasticity.
There are no specific risks involved in participating in motor imagery. Motor imagery is actually quite easy to do at home, and many people find it a fun and relaxing way of having additional therapy.
Your rehabilitation therapist should be able to provide you with a program to meet your individual needs. She/He can guide you as to:
Motor imagery is inexpensive and accessible. Insurance will cover the services that you will receive in the hospital or rehabilitation centre. Once you are home you can continue this treatment on your own. No special equipment is required.
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider.