Optical Illusions Found To Ease Arthritis Pain

Mirage technology tricks the brain into thinking fingers are stretching and shrinking.

Optical Illusions may have healing powers, researchers at Nottingham University recently discovered. Participants found that a simple computer-generated optical illusion soothed their arthritis pain.

It was an accidental discovery and the university’s psychology department was originally giving a presentation on how the brain puts together what people see and what they feel.

A grandmother with arthritis asked to test the Mirage, a machine that creates the illusion of huge stretching and shrinking when someone pushes and pulls their fingers inside a box.

“We were giving her a practical demonstration of illusionary finger stretching,” Dr. Catherine Preston explained to BBC News. “She announced, ‘My finger doesn’t hurt anymore’ and asked whether she could take the machine home with her.”

Kids are usually the ones who find the machine most interesting. It’s a cool trick. But now the machine may be used for something much more helpful.

“We were stunned,” Preston says of the discovery. “I don’t know who was more surprised, her or us.”

The psychologist went on to recruit 20 volunteers, around the age of 70, suffering from osteoarthritis. All had been diagnosed with arthritic pain in their hands and fingers, and they were asked to rate their pain while using the Mirage technology.

In 85 percent of the cases, their pain was cut in half. Many felt less pain in their hands and fingers when the image showed them being stretched. Others found relief when the image showed them shrinking. Some said they were in less pain when stretched and shrunk, and a third claimed the treatment caused their pain to stop completely. The illusion only worked when the painful parts of the hands were under the illusion, although some felt less pain in their feet as well. Further studies are needed, and there is little chance such a machine would be used at home because of the high cost. “Although this research is in the very early stages and further work needs to be done,” UK Arthritis Research Professor Alan Silman said to The Daily Mail, “it’s clearly an area with a lot of future potential.”
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