The clinical aspects of mirror therapy in rehabilitation: a systematic review of the literature

Andreas Stefan Rothgangel*, Susy M. Braun, Anna J. H. M. Beurskens, Ruediger J. Seitz, Derick T. Wade

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The objective of this study was to evaluate the clinical aspects of mirror therapy (MT) interventions after stroke, phantom limb pain and complex regional pain syndrome. A systematic literature search of the Cochrane Database of controlled trials, PubMed/MEDLINE, CINAHL, EM BASE, PsycINFO, PEDro, Rehab Trials and Rehadat, was made by two investigators independently (A.S.R. and M.J.). No restrictions were made regarding study design and type or localization of stroke, complex regional pain syndrome and amputation. Only studies that had MT given as a long-term treatment were included. Two authors (A.S.R. and S.M.B.) independently assessed studies for eligibility and risk of bias by using the Amsterdam-Maastricht Consensus List. Ten randomized trials, seven patient series and four single-case studies were included. The studies were heterogeneous regarding design, size, conditions studied and outcome measures. Methodological quality varied; only a few studies were of high quality. Important clinical aspects, such as assessment of possible side effects, were only insufficiently addressed. For stroke there is a moderate quality of evidence that MT as an additional intervention improves recovery of arm function, and a low quality of evidence regarding lower limb function and pain after stroke. The quality of evidence in patients with complex regional pain syndrome and phantom limb pain is also low. Firm conclusions could not be drawn. Little is known about which patients are likely to benefit most from MT, and how MT should preferably be applied. Future studies with clear descriptions of intervention protocols should focus on standardized outcome measures and systematically register adverse effects. International Journal of Rehabilitation Research 34:1-13
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
JournalInternational Journal of Rehabilitation Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011


  • feedback
  • imagery (psychotherapy)
  • mirror
  • physical therapy
  • rehabilitation
  • review

Cite this