Acta Neurologica Belgica

, Volume 119, Issue 2, pp 175–186 | Cite as

Mental imagery training for treatment of central neuropathic pain: a narrative review

  • Jaskirat Kaur
  • Shampa Ghosh
  • Asish Kumar Sahani
  • Jitendra Kumar SinhaEmail author
Review article


Mental imagery is a quasi-perceptual experience in the absence of external stimuli. This concept has intrigued psychologists, sportspersons, neurologists and other scientists for over a decade now. Imagery has been used in rehabilitation and the results have been promising. Researchers refer to this as healing the body through the mind. However, the challenge is lack of standardized protocols, homogeneity and consistency in application of mental imagery in different populations. The purpose of this review is to discuss and understand the role of mental imagery in the treatment of central neuropathic pain (CNP). Treatment options of CNP are inadequate and their benefits are short lived. We conducted an extensive search on various databases using combinations of different keywords and reviewed the available literature in this area. We were able to finalize twelve studies where mental imagery was used for treating CNP in spinal cord injury (SCI), stroke and multiple sclerosis. However, the methodology and techniques of mental imagery training used in these studies were non-homogeneous and inconsistent. This review provides a guiding framework to further explore the different techniques of mental imagery and their roles in treating CNP.


Spinal cord injury Neuropathic pain Hypnosis Guided imagery Graded motor imagery Visual illusion 



Central nervous system


Central post stroke pain


Complex regional pain syndrome


Dorsal root ganglion


Graded motor imagery


International Association for the Study of Pain


Neuropathic pain


Central neuropathic pain


Peripheral neuropathic pain


Range of motion


Spinal cord injury


Transcranial direct current stimulation


transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation


World Health Organization


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

There is no conflict of interest to declare. None of the authors received any financial support to conduct this study or to prepare the manuscript. The people who have made substantial contributions towards the work reported in this manuscript are included in the list of authors.


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Copyright information

© Belgian Neurological Society 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Amity Institute of Neuropsychology and Neurosciences (AINN)Amity University UPNoidaIndia
  2. 2.Indian Spinal Injuries Centre (ISIC)New DelhiIndia
  3. 3.Indian Council of Medical Research-National Institute of NutritionHyderabadIndia

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