Helping amputees and phantom limb pain


Treating phantom limb pain with free mirrors and mirror therapy ...globally.



on Oct 9, 2015

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A tremendous THANK YOU! to READER’S DIGEST USA, who took an interest in my story and reprinted and freshened-up a MOSAIC SCIENCE article ( on Me and My Mirror’s work in S E Asia.
The article is being read by many thousands of people across the States and has created a great upwelling of interest, questions and queries, moral support and also donations.
I am busily planning another ‘Me and My Mirror’ work mission to, this time, Burma (Myanmar) and northern Sri Lanka in addition to returning to both Lao and Cambodia. I am very focused on making it a crazy-active, successful and fortifying time for all, so the RD USA article and all the interest from American readers comes at a pivotal time. No tickee, no laundree! And all my work is funded by donation alone.
Here are some snippets of the kind of interest, queries and enthusiasm that the article has engendered. Bravo USA! It’s a timely burst of interest as I am imminently headed by to SE Asia (particularly Lao) where any warm-blooded American would quickly concur that it wouldn’t hurt to give a little back:
Hi Stephen,
Thanks for the email. I actually work at Reader’s Digest and loved your story. I hope my small contribution helps 🙂

…My wife had a stroke a two years ago and she has severe pain in her right hip which nobody can find a reason for . MRI’s you name it. When she first stands up from a chair or gets out of an automobile, the pain is severe. This is on her paralysed side. They think it’s a brain issue. Do you think mirror therapy would work for something like this?

A/ Hi Patrick,
Thanks for your interest! Your question is a good one. I have had success with treating stroke victims with mirror therapy; in many ways stroke victims are ideal recipients of the type of brain messages afforded by the therapy. I would gamely say that it is certainly worth a try especially as her pain is located on the ‘phantom side’. The functionality of mirror therapy depends on the existence of ‘mirror neurons’, ‘neural plasticity’ and the very fact that there are 2 hemispheres to the brain and that information traveling between them gets filtered. It’s worth a try, that’s for sure, especially as it takes very little effort and virtually no expense.
The one hang-up might be the location of your wife’s phantom pain. You two are going to have to experiment with different positions/angles in order to get, in the mirror, the best and closest possible reflection of the ‘good area’ on the ‘good side’. I have had some limited success in the past, too, with, say, bi-lateral leg amputees and happen to believe that with experience and patience and a very flexible brain even blind people can – in a way – profit from mirror therapy in treating other phantom areas. The therapy is, after all, merely a very concrete form of visualization.
Once you feel you have ascertained the best position, the magic numbers are, roughly 2 sessions/day , 10mins/session, for, say 5 weeks and you should see not just results, but, if we’re lucky, a total cessation of the pain.
Good Luck to You Both!!!

…I have been looking for the right size mirror everywhere, but can’t seem to find it, could you tell me where to purchase/what store in the US carries these mirrors?
I am an aka and suffer with phantom pain and hope this technique will give me some peace.

A/ Give it a try… It’ll give you some peace for sure. I have a household mirror that just happens to be roughly the right dimensions. It’s glass and framed and so is both optically perfect and also heavy and cumbersome. I hang it on the wall when I’m not using it, which is generally, cuz I’m cured. It took me 4 weeks to get rid of the pain and it’s basically gone.
The mirrors that you see on my website are acrylic. i slap them together myself by hand and they are cut from 8’X4′ sheets that I buy locally (usually either in Phnom Penh or Vientiane). Better stock is widely available anywhere in N America; but it’s expensive, like 200 bucks a sheet. The dimensions I use for AKs are, roughly, 90cmsX20 cms (it needs to fit the backing that I buy and S E Asians are, generally, small peeps).

The mirror is just a key to the lock and does not at all need to be optically perfect or of the perfect size. I could treat myself in a still pond or with a lady’s make-up compact.

… A warm greeting to you and THANK YOU on behalf of so many people who have been helped by your experiences and teachings!!
Today I am writing on behalf of my 90-year-old dad, John Conrad. He became an amputee at the ripe old age of 20 – at the end of WWII, an accident which occurred from an Army buddy. He lost his left leg, about 7 inches below his knee.
Well, after living with him as a child, and visiting him all these years as an adult, you are absolutely RIGHT about phantom pains!! He can predict the weather, and has phantom itches and pains continually.

So, he read the article in Reader’s Digest and told us about it. My brother went out and bought him a slim, long mirror for $5.00!! He has already experienced some relief. I even bought him the book a week ago. He’s in the process of reading it now.
My question to you is: What should he do about experiencing his two small toes feeling like they are being pulled very hard away from his foot?!? I used the illustrations in the book to explain what I “thought” he should do, but I’m not certain. Can you help him? Any and all suggestions would be very welcomed!!
My dad does not have a computer, so I will be relaying the message over the phone.
Thank you, once again, for ALL you do!
Mary Anne Dutra

… Hello,
This is so exciting!!! I’m a double AK from the Vietnam war, 1969. Can you tell me how this applies to the double amp situation as I have had these pains forever!!!!
Saw your article in Reader’s Digest.
A/ Hey Barry,
Shit, man, my condolences. I’ve seen, of course, plenty of bi-lateral amps in both Lao and Cambodia. I’ve treated a few too and, of course, it’s tricky but it’s totally possible. If you comb through the pix on my little website you’ll see me treating one or two two-up guys. It’s totally worth a try; I don’t have to tell you what the pain’s like, right?
The key to the mirror is in understanding that it (itself) is just a bigass key to ‘visualization’. It helps your brain ‘envision’ intact limbs and from there the brain very speedily sets about re-wiring itself and eradicating the distress signals which manifest themselves as phantom pain.
In my experienced opinion even a blind guy could, theoretically, utilize ‘mirror therapy’. What makes me certain of this is that, although I ‘cured’ myself with the mirror some 6 years ago, every long now and again I’ll get a flare up. You’re not supposed to be able to use the mirror as a ‘spot treatment’ or an analgesic, but it works for me – after these years of treating so many people etc – I just close my eyes (in lieu of the mirror) and envision swinging both my legs back and forth… wiggling all ten toes in a very concentrated way and with all the focus I can summon… and the pain dissipates and, by-and-by, goes away.

It’s all about your brain feeling that everything is cool again. In your case, Barry, you might try to use a trick for dbl amps that has shown me some success before. It’s not for the faint of heart but you gotta find a guy – say your best buddy – and you gotta sit on his lap in a way that his legs are basically projecting from your stumps… I’m sure you’re following me. So then, while you are staring very intently at your new legs… then COMMAND them: right knee, left ankle, right toes…. and your buddy moves in accord with your brain’s wishes.
Which is a mirror image of what the mirror accomplishes… in concert with your own noodle. Right? It works, Barry. A lot of the guys I treat in Cambodia were soldiers and they understand what it means to have a best friend in their unit andso are not squeamish about sitting in a guy’s lap.
If you really want to get rid of your pain, it’s worth a try Barry. I would be actively curious to learn how you fare, so if you choose to try it, let me know how it goes. In general, the magic numbers seem to be: 2 sessions (of visualization) per day; 10 mins per session; for 5 weeks. By then, theoretically, you’re done. No more pain, basically, for life.

You could do a real solid, Barry, by your mates too. If you know other people either via your Vietnam connections or your therapy/rehab etc mates who have lost limbs… let them in on the secret and, by all means, tell them to contact me if they have any questions at all.
Good Luck, my friend,
Yours sincerely,
These are just a few examples of the interest that is charging in. Stay tuned for more and Be The Image!!! sL