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Think and move, and your pain may improve

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Here’s a very interesting new study of a movement therapy for pain. Dr. Moseley at Oxford studied a specific sequence of thinking about movements and actual movements that seems to lessen pain and increase function. This treatment is very exciting work for several reasons:

  • it lessens pain
  • it increases functioning
  • it helps in difficult-to-treat conditions like CRPS (RSD) and phantom limb pain
  • it doesn’t rely on medication or invasive procedures

Patients in the study went through the following sequence:

1. Looking a pictures of hands and feet, and determining if each picture was from the right or left side of the body.

2. Imagining moving their hand or foot into the same position as each picture.

3. Actually moving their hand or foot into the same position as each picture.

As in all treatment I write about on this blog, this is NOT something to try at home. In previous studies of Dr. Moseley’s that I’ve read, for example, patients experienced increased pain if the treatment was out of a particular order. So this treatment is to be undertaken only under a doctor’s guidance; it’s not harmless because it’s “just moving.”

The decrease in pain seems to come from a re-training in your brain, having the brain focus on normal movements rather than pain signals. But the exact way it works isn’t known. If you’re interested in reading the study, it’s published in Neurology, Volume 67, Issue 12, page 2129, 2006.


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