Mirror therapy for improving motor function after stroke

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Mar 14;2012(3):CD008449. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD008449.pub2.


Background: Mirror therapy is used to improve motor function after stroke. During mirror therapy, a mirror is placed in the patient's midsagittal plane, thus reflecting movements of the non-paretic side as if it were the affected side.

Objectives: To summarise the effectiveness of mirror therapy for improving motor function, activities of daily living, pain and visuospatial neglect in patients after stroke.

Search methods: We searched the Cochrane Stroke Group's Trials Register (June 2011), the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library 2011, Issue 2), MEDLINE (1950 to June 2011), EMBASE (1980 to June 2011), CINAHL (1982 to June 2011), AMED (1985 to June 2011), PsycINFO (1806 to June 2011) and PEDro (June 2011). We also handsearched relevant conference proceedings, trials and research registers, checked reference lists and contacted trialists, researchers and experts in our field of study.

Selection criteria: We included randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and randomised cross-over trials comparing mirror therapy with any control intervention for patients after stroke.

Data collection and analysis: Two review authors independently selected trials based on the inclusion criteria, documented the methodological quality of studies and extracted data. We analysed the results as standardised mean differences (SMDs) for continuous variables.

Main results: We included 14 studies with a total of 567 participants that compared mirror therapy with other interventions. When compared with all other interventions, mirror therapy may have a significant effect on motor function (post-intervention data: SMD 0.61; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.22 to 1.0; P = 0.002; change scores: SMD 1.04; 95% CI 0.57 to 1.51; P < 0.0001). However, effects on motor function are influenced by the type of control intervention. Additionally, mirror therapy may improve activities of daily living (SMD 0.33; 95% CI 0.05 to 0.60; P = 0.02). We found a significant positive effect on pain (SMD -1.10; 95% CI -2.10 to -0.09; P = 0.03) which is influenced by patient population. We found limited evidence for improving visuospatial neglect (SMD 1.22; 95% CI 0.24 to 2.19; P = 0.01). The effects on motor function were stable at follow-up assessment after six months.

Authors' conclusions: The results indicate evidence for the effectiveness of mirror therapy for improving upper extremity motor function, activities of daily living and pain, at least as an adjunct to normal rehabilitation for patients after stroke. Limitations are due to small sample sizes of most included studies, control interventions that are not used routinely in stroke rehabilitation and some methodological limitations of the studies.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Exercise Movement Techniques / instrumentation
  • Exercise Movement Techniques / methods*
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Paresis / etiology
  • Paresis / rehabilitation*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Recovery of Function*
  • Stroke / complications
  • Stroke Rehabilitation*