The Power of Illusion over Pain

Illusions reduce hand pain in osteoarthritis patients

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) The power of the mind can have a powerful effect on the body. This point is held up by a recent study showing that simple illusions can reduce the pain felt by patients with arthritis.

MIRAGE is a tool that takes a real-time image of a person's hand and then changes that image to give people the sensation that their hand is stretching or shrinking. Using this tool on patients with arthritis of the hand, researchers found that it reduced the pain in affected joints. In some cases, the illusion momentarily eliminated pain.

"Illusions can reduce the pain of arthritis."

At first, researchers came upon this discovery by accident, explains Dr. Catherine Preston from Nottingham Trent University. The public is often invited to play with the MIRAGE technology.

One day, an elderly woman with arthritis used the tool. When the researchers started to give her the illusion of finger stretching, the woman said that her finger didn't hurt anymore. Preston says that they were all shocked.

The researchers followed up this accidental discovery with a study on 20 volunteers with arthritis of the hands or fingers. While they found that the illusion significantly reduced pain, lead researcher Dr. Roger Newport notes that more research is needed to see if the MIRAGE technology would be an effective treatment for arthritis.

In Depth

After the the study's volunteers went through the illusion process, the researchers found that:

  • Pain was cut in half in 85 percent of volunteers
  • Some volunteers reported more pain relief from stretching illusions while others reported more relief from shrinking illusions
  • Pain was temporarily eliminated in one-third of the volunteers
  • Some patients reported an increased range of movement
Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 14, 2011
Last Updated:
April 26, 2011