In Brief: Motor Imagery Studies & Pain

February 8, 2020

Motor imagery (MI) research has produced the following findings in the rehabilitation of those with chronic pain:


- MI has been effective in reducing pain that remains after 6 months of conventional treatment


- A study by Bruehl et al. shows that MI can result in significant pain relief (71%) and improvement in functionality (50%)


- The use of MI can be a viable alternative for chronic pain that is resistant to other rehabilitation protocols (Zangrando)

       - Reorganizes the way the sensory-motor areas of the brain perceive pain (Souza)


- A meta-analysis of MI vs usual physiotherapy favored MI in reducing pain

       - Pain intensity decreased over the course of MI, and relief was maintained at follow-up


- Chronic pain & phantom limb pain are driven by the brain’s perception of pain rather than by the underlying tissue damage. Therefore, a reasonable target for treatment is the portion of the brain responsible for the perception of pain (Moseley), which is targeted in imagery interventions


- MRI tests during movement execution revealed marked changes in areas of discriminative pain processing, which seemed to be associated with pain reduction (Moseley)

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