Mind over Matter

Last week the BBC reported a remarkable new piece of research being carried out by Nottingham Trent University into the treatment of arthritis (Mind tricks may help arthritic pain).  The technology, called ‘Mirage’ started off as a research project into the way our brains put together what we see and feel happening in our bodies but, after a woman with arthritis reported relief from the symptoms, the scope of the research has been extended..

“For the illusion to work patients place their hand inside a box containing a camera, which then projects the image in realtime onto a screen in front of them.  The subject then sees their arthritic fingers being apparently stretched and shrunk by someone gently pushing and pulling from the other side of the box.”

Twenty volunteers diagnosed with arthritic pain in their hands and fingers were recruited by the University to test out the process.

“Before starting the test they were asked to rate their pain from 0-20, with 0 indicating no pain and 20 representing the most unbearable pain they could imagine….The study showed a marked reduction in pain – on average halving the discomfort for 85 per cent of volunteers.  Some reported greater reduction in pain for stretching, some for shrinking and some for both.

The pain reduction worked only when painful parts of the hand were “manipulated” and for a third of the volunteers it temporarily eliminated the pain altogether.  Anecdotally, many volunteers also reported an increased range of movement. The results will be reported in the next edition of the medical journal, Rheumatology.” (Anthony Bartram, BBC 2011)

Our minds find it hard to differentiate between what we physically experience and what we see or visualise.  There are a number of NLP and hypnosis techniques that work on this principle.  Using visualisation as part of a therapy, I can help clients to change their experience of pain and improve their physical performance.

All of this is exciting news for the 10 million people who suffer from some form of arthritis, particularly those who don’t like taking drugs or don’t experience any pain relief from them.