Saturday, December 12, 2009

End The Pain Project Ventures Into Vietnam

Friday, December 18, marks the beginning of End The Pain Project activity in Vietnam.  Co-Founder, Moira-Judith Mann arrives on that date to bring information about Mirror Therapy for amputees suffering Phantom Limb Pain to several Vietnamese organizations serving amputees in various capacities. First stop -Hanoi.  Mid-January, she will visit Phnom Penh, Cambodia to establish connections.

Mann will present the ETPP ToolKit; a newly developed unbreakable mirror system prototype and portable PrismGlasses, recently invented by Dr. Jonathan Bannister and Dr. Glyn Walsh of Scotland and marketed by Scottish Health Innovations Ltd., all as non-invasive interventions to reduce or end Phantom Limb Pain.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

OHSU Clinical Trial: Home-based Self-delivered Mirror Therapy for Phantom Limb Pain

Beth D. Darnall, PhD, a psychologist at Oregon Health & Science University is conducting a pilot study of self-delivered home-based Mirror Therapy for Phantom Limb Pain.  The clinical trial started January 2009 and will continue through December 2010, and is currently recruiting participants.

In The Oregonian, December 2, 2009 article,  participant Gail Hillyer describes experiencing phantom limb pain soon after surgeons removed most of her right leg, a delayed consequence of damage caused by radiation therapy she underwent for bone cancer as a child.

"It was like someone taking my leg and shoving it on a bed of coals and holding it there," Hillyer says. Pain medications have helped minimize the pain, but she still experiences joint aches, shooting pains, itching and muscle cramps from the leg that is no longer there.

Hillyer decided to volunteer in a clinical trial at Oregon Health & Science University testing a treatment called Mirror Therapy. The technique is simple: She holds a mirror vertically alongside her left leg so that it hides the missing right leg, and what she sees is an image of two intact legs. She spends 25 minutes a day moving the intact limb in the mirror, exposing her brain to views of a functioning, pain-free limb.

The first time she sat down with the mirror, Hillyer experienced startling sensations from her phantom leg.

"When I pointed my toe, I felt a distinct sensation that my other heel was dragging across the bed covers," she says. While rotating her left foot in circles, her big toe accidentally touched the mirror. But instead of feeling cool glass, "it felt as if my two toes were touching," she says. "At some level, I know that didn't happen, but I would vouch for that sensation as being real."

In the OHSU trial, Darnall hopes to show that amputees can use mirror therapy to treat themselves at home without the expense and inconvenience of having to visit a therapist for each session.

How it works remains "a great mystery," says University of Oregon neuroscientist Scott Frey. His group used functional MRI to scan brain activity in people with amputations as they viewed mirror images that appeared to restore the missing limb.

"When you give this visual feedback with the mirror, you tend to see a boost in activity in the brain that would have been used in moving the hand that the person no longer has," Frey says.