Speaking of reflections, have those of you with affected limbs ever tried the mirror box?
The one I have is small, collapsible, and looks like a miniature laundry hamper with a mirror on one of its sides. (You can pick one up at Reflex Pain Management. Alternatively, you can make one.) To use it, I prop it in front of me where I can see my reflection (usually the clavicle area), put my left (affected) hand inside the opening, and in front of the mirror I’ll move my right hand in different ways, usually writing words in the air. This way, the reflection in the mirror appears to be my left hand (which I can’t see inside the box). However, inside the box, I will mimic the right side by doing the mirror-image movement, which the reflection will be showing in the correct way.
The concept behind the technique is to trick your brain into thinking it’s watching your affected hand, when in actuality it is a reflection of your unaffected hand. In theory, this visual stimulation will spark new neural programming in the pathways between your affected arm and brain. Because you can see the correct form in the mirror, you are essentially training your affected hand within the box (even though you can’t see it).
Originally, the mirror box was created to treat phantom limb pain, for amputees suffering from prolonged pain seeming to originate from their lost limbs. (Read about it in one of the chapters of The Brain That Changes Itself, a fascinating and inspiring read on brain plasticity.)
The first time I ever tried it was a startling experience. Apparently, I had some wires crossed or something because the neuro-stimulation began running backwards: My right hand started behaving pathologically, as my affected side, as though my brain rejected seeing the perfect movements of my superhand coming from that side of my body.
It freaked me out! For a horrendous couple of moments, I had experienced what it would be like to own two affected hands. (For any of you who may, you surely have my sympathies.)
At first, I tried just closing and opening a fist and touching thumb to fingers, but because the freaky backwards neurological response kept happening and I didn’t want to promote that kind of programming, I switched to writing capital letters in the air.
Do this about five minutes a day, and you’ll start to see improvements after about two weeks.
Warning, however: It can get pretty boring, but the theory is sound. So give it a try!
To our healing,