Mirror Box

Reporter: Graeme Butler

Joe Cavalli's recovery is literally one step at a time - and he's grateful for every one of them -- In May the motorcycle Joe was riding was hit by a car - he was thrown against a pole and his petrol tank exploded, "at first I wasn't sure if I was going to survive actually they weren't sure 100% I was pretty badly burnt from my ankle to my backside lucky I was wearing my leather boots it didn't touch my boots really"

Joe had badly damaged the nerves in his arm which left him with next to no movement in his hand at all. "Very early on Joe had a very small flicker in one of his fingers and that just sort of sparked in me a real sort of urgency to try and capitalise on that"

Physiotherapist Dale Edgar decided to try an unconventional treatment using a mirror box to try and trick Joe's brain into thinking he could move his hand the result was amazing. By placing his injured hand inside the mirror box - and looking at the reflection of his functioning hand - the brain is fooled into believing the injured hand is moving.

Dale says "you're causing an illusion or the brain is basically tricked into believing the information coming from the bad hand or the sore hand is actually good information and you're reducing pain because the pain is perceived in the brain"

Joe says "The first time it was introduced I was amazed I thought what is this and I put my hand inside and I couldn't see it and I put my hand near it and he says to me look at the mirror and I'm looking at the mirror and I could see this hand working" By using the mirror box for about 20 minutes a day - Joe's brain is being re- trained and movement is returning to his fingers. "You're getting your muscle and your nerves to re-think again and that's what I was doing so it really works but you've got to believe in it and it's hard to believe at first but you grow into it"

The mirror box is helping burns patients reduce pain and even has the potential to train the brain how to heal injuries in a mind over matter way. "We also believe, you know our pie in the sky we're looking at well how do these techniques the brain training techniques including mirror box how do we train a wound to heal and to heal with the proper reconstruction of the skin putting the nerves back in the right place putting the collagen and other major components back in the right place"

Joe's recovery is going to be long and hard and while he might reflect on what he's lost - it's his reflection that might hold the key to what he gets back. "That mirror is very important and if people believe in it works you've got a problem with your hands use the mirror"