The principle of mirror therapy (MT) is the use of a mirror to create a reflective illusion of an affected limb in order to trick the brain into thinking movement has occurred without pain, or to create positive visual feedback of a limb movement. It involves placing the affected limb behind a mirror, which is sited so the reflection of the opposing limb appears in place of the hidden limb.
Mirror therapy exercises are designed to harness neuron mirroring to activate neurons in the affected area of the brain, and eventually increase the dexterity, accuracy, and velocity of impaired limbs.
Mirror therapy is particularly useful for stroke patients struggling with hand paralysis or clenched hands after stroke. It works by placing a mirror over the affected hand and using the reflection to “trick” the brain. Even though you logically know better, it helps retrain your brain to move your affected hand.
Because mirror therapy is designed to treat motor impairment, it’s important to remember that this treatment is rooted in the basic principles of motor learning: a high number of repetitions combined with variation of the movement performance.
For optimal results, these exercises should be performed slowly and consistently, with at least 15 repetitions per exercise. A typical mirror therapy session should last about 30 minutes, but patients can split this time up into three 10-minute or two 15-minute sessions, if preferred.