The results appeared in a letter to the editor in the March 29 online edition of the journal Rheumatology. In it, Newport and Preston suggested their method might prove useful "for promoting therapeutic exercise normally prevented by painful movement."
In a Mirage demonstration broadcast by BBC News, arthritis patient Pam Tegerdine said, "It was a very weird sensation, but as my finger was being 'stretched,' it felt more and more comfortable. I just wanted it to stay like that, to keep that image in my head. If this could lead to a drug-free treatment for arthritis, then that would be fantastic."
Arthritis Pain: Mirage Box Works, but How?
Although Newport and Preston didn't report how long the relief lasted, "such dramatic improvements must be considered good news, even if they provide only a temporary respite," Candida S. McCabe, who works at the Bath Centre for Pain Services at the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases, wrote in an accompanying editorial.
She noted that although there was no control group, changes in pain levels occurred only when the researchers manipulated the painful areas of volunteers' hands. Manipulating the entire hand or non-painful areas had no effect, suggesting that "distraction alone did not influence patients' perception of pain."
The co-authors still cannot say how the device produces relief, nor could they rule out the placebo effect, but nope to learn more from additional studies. Although they didn't measure range of motion before and after using the box, some study subjects reported that they were able to move their fingers more freely after using Mirage.