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An investigation of contextual factors in the application of multisensory illusions for analgesia in hand osteoarthritis

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posted on 07.09.2018, 13:01 by Kristy Themelis, Roger NewportRoger Newport
Objective Emerging evidence suggests that multisensory illusions can modulate pain and can lead to changes in body perception. The aim of this study was to investigate whether contextual factors could explain the analgesic effects of multisensory body illusions on pain and body perception in people with hand OA (HOA). Methods In a crossover study, 28 individuals with painful HOA viewed their most affected hand in and outside of a real-time mediated reality system, with illusory stretching of the hand and changes in sensory input. The outcome measures were pain ratings, pressure pain thresholds, hand function and the subjective experience of the illusion. Results Stretching the hand both inside and outside the virtual environment led to a reduction in subjective pain ratings (all P < 0.05). Virtual stretching led to changes in body perception (P < 0.05) with no changes in pressure pain threshold (all P > 0.05). Higher pain at baseline predicted susceptibility to the stretch illusion and mean susceptibility ratings were greatest after the stretch illusion. Conclusion The current study highlights the importance of the context in which pain occurs and in which potential treatments may be applied. In this case, virtual and physical stretching modulated pain, but not viewing the hand alone. The research opens important implications for future research, including the use of contextual control conditions and the development of visual feedback interventions for a range of similarly visible chronic conditions for which pain, body image disturbances and body dissatisfaction may be apparent.


K.T. was supported by the Pain Relief Foundation (grant 110216).



  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences

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Rheumatology Advances in Practice






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THEMELIS, K. and NEWPORT, R., 2018. An investigation of contextual factors in the application of multisensory illusions for analgesia in hand osteoarthritis. Rheumatology Advances in Practice, July, 2 (2), rky019.


Oxford University Press on behalf of the British Society for Rheumatology © The Authors


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