Mirror Therapy Expert Will Teach Treatment in Vietnam

Beth Darnall, PhD, an expert on treating phantom limb pain using mirror therapy in amputees, will present three free workshops to health care providers and aid workers in three cities in Vietnam from Nov. 26 through Dec. 3.

Darnall, from the Oregon Health and Science University, received a $10,000 grant to teach this treatment from the International Association for the Study of Pain. Her team includes two physicians from Can Tho Medical University in Vietnam and a leader from the End the Pain Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people reduce phantom limb pain.

“Vietnam has the highest rate of amputation in the world — mostly because of land mines and unexploded bombs,” Darnall stated in a press release. “And the amputations are still happening — often to children — more than 30 years after the war ended. Being from the United States, it’s particularly gratifying to go and provide free pain education to help mitigate some of the suffering from this.”

HealthSaaS, based in Portland, Ore., will provide technology services that will allow Darnall to coach patients and physicians and track outcomes in Vietnam after she returns to the US.

“The outreach project is an efficient way to start helping the 580,000 amputees in Vietnam at a very low cost, using cloud-based technology to bring expert pain care to remote areas of the country,” Frank Ille, chief executive officer of HealthSaaS, stated in the release.

Mirror therapy is thought to cause actual restructuring of the brain, which lessens or eliminates pain. Several clinical studies have confirmed the therapy’s effectiveness, and suggest that the therapy is effective after 4 weeks of regular practice.

Darnall and her team hope that the workshop participants can teach mirror therapy to adults and children with amputated limbs who can then perform the therapy in their own homes.

“The beauty of mirror therapy is it’s easy to learn and do, and it has almost no cost — only the cost of a simple mirror that is as long as the amputated limb,” Darnall said. “And it often works much better than expensive drugs that can have side effects and cause other problems.”

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