The “mirror box” therapy uses a mirror on the outside of the box or triangle which faces the non-affected side and the patient’s face can easily see the non-affected arm and hand. The stroke patient attempts to copy the movement of the non-affected arm and hand with the hemiparetic or affected limb. In other words, the movements are done symmetrically, like conducting an orchestra. However, the patient only sees the reflection of the good hand.
V. S. Ramachandran, an Indian-American neuroscientist, is the inventor of mirror box therapy in the 1990s. Also, he explored the Mirror Neuron System in our brains while working out the essence of the mirror box. With it, we can replicate what we see, hear, do, or perceive in others or ourselves.
The therapy tricks the patient into believing the reflected arm is the affected side doing the act. The brain activates to move the affected arm and hand as if they are doing it. Even if it does not move at first. The reflection, perceived to be accurate movement, is thought to reorganize the way the brain is wired.
Some simple exercises you can use with the non-affected hand and arm. You can attempt to follow the exercises with your affected hand and arm. One drill is taking turns thumping a finger or your thumb. The second movement is you lift your hand until it is almost vertical. You exercise the muscles in your wrist. The third practice is when you rotate your wrist back and forth. There are many more drills you can do. Check the video from Dr. David Butler in the sources for more ideas.
The mirror box is ideal for us to use at home. You can make your own box or buy it inexpensively. It requires very little training. You can set up the box easily. If you have little conscious movement of your affected limb and only have little energy, you can do this therapy!
If you aren’t using the mirror box, now the time has arrived to start practicing mirror box therapy. Try it!