Reference:Melzack R et al Phantom limbs in people with congenital limb deficiency or amputation in early childhood; Brain. 1997 Sep;120 ( Pt 9):1603-20.
Remember early on in this Report when I asked you to close your eyes and visualize your body? How did you do? Did you have a mental representation of all your body parts?
So where does the body image you saw in your head come from? Were you born with it or did you develop it?
Here are some fascinating facts on this topic. Individuals with anorexia nervosa have disrupted awareness of the boundary of their bodies …hence reality does not fully explain our internal body image.
Blind individuals, even when they are born blind, have an accurate body image …hence vision does not fully explain our internal body image.
Aplastic patients (with congenital limb deficiency) still have a body image of having two arms and two legs. They can experience phantom limbs despite the absence of those limbs since birth.
It is hypothesized that some aplastic people still have a body image of having two arms and two legs as the vision of other bodies plays a role in shaping their body image …enabling them to generate a body template.
Considering these facts, we may conclude that our internal body image may be partially genetically determined and partially encoded in the brain based on our life experiences.
Our job as a PT is to normalize the body image for those with pain disorders and poor movement patterns. How? Movement with awareness!