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Mind trick 'could treat arthritis'

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Arthritis pain in some patients could be soothed by an experimental drug-free treatment, a small study by a group of scientists suggests.

Researchers say that computer-generated image technology may be able to trick some arthritis patients into feeling less pain in their fingers.

The mind trick, called Mirage, works by having patients place their hands inside a box containing a camera. The patient then watches as a real time image of their hands is projected in front of them. The technology then manipulates the image to make it look like their fingers are being stretched and shrunk.

The research, which is still in its early stages, found that the treatment halved the pain of a small sample of test subjects with arthritis in 85% of cases.

Scientists at the University of Nottingham’s Psychology department created the mind trick, which was tested on subjects who had all been clinically diagnosed with arthritic pain in their hands and fingers and were an average of 70 years old.

Many of those being tested said they felt less pain in their hands and fingers when the image appeared to show them being stretched while others said the pain reduced when the image showed them shrinking. Some reported reduced pain for both.

The research found that a third of those taking part in the trial said the treatment stopped them feeling pain completely. It was found that the illusion only worked when painful parts of the hand were manipulated.

The study, which will be published in the medical journal Rheumatology, found that anecdotally, some volunteers said they experienced a wider range of movement in their hands following the treatment.

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