'Illusions' for pain
Chronic pain is a growing social concern that permits scientific investigation, especially after the ineffectiveness of many treatments. Given evidence that pain experience depend on multisensory integration, there is interest in using body ownership illusions for curbing acute pain.
A study was performed to explore whether patients’ experience of chronic pain could be reduced by full body illusions (FBIs) that cause participants to segregate from their own body. Patients with chronic pain (comprising of sciatica, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, muscular pain, IBS and back pain) displayed their own ‘virtual’ bodies via a video camera and head-mounted display for two minutes. In ‘back-stroking FBI’, their backs were stroked with a stick while they considered synchronous or asynchronous stroking on the virtual body and in ‘front-stroking FBI’, they were stroked near their collarbone while considering the stick approach their field of view in a synchronous or asynchronous fashion. Self-report questionnaires were used to measure illusion strength and pain intensity.
It was revealed that full body illusions were accomplished by patients with chronic pain and further, that pain intensity was reduced by an average of 37% after illusion (synchronous) conditions. These concluding results add support to theories that high-level multisensory body representations can interact with homeostatic management and pain perception. Interesting result of this study showed that the pain intensity in chronic pain patients was decreased by 37% by ‘out of body’ illusions. These data exhibit the potential of such illusions for chronic pain management.