Psychologists believe people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can use hypnotherapy and visualisation techniques to lead a more active life.
The condition is a chronic disease affecting 350,000 people of all ages in Britain. It causes inflammation of the joints, often severe disability and ultimately affects a person’s ability to carry out everyday tasks.
Although drugs and surgery are available to tackle the disease, many patients still report high levels of pain.
In a study by Bryan Bennett and colleagues from Bangor University, Wales, 42 patients were asked to visualise their pain in different ways and try to manage it.
One technique involved participants visualising their pain in the form of a person and then thanking that person for letting them know something was not right.
They would then ask the person to leave, visualising their image going further away until it eventually disappeared, leaving them free of pain.
The results indicated that these imagery techniques, and hypnotherapy, were effective at reducing the pain and fatigue caused by RA.
Mr Bennett said: “All the participants were asked to identify what areas of their life were important to them but were negatively affected due to the RA. By doing so they were taking an active part in their own therapy.
“By employing the techniques they were taught, they were able to self-treat when necessary, allowing them to control their pain and enabling them to get on with enjoying life.’
The research team will present their findings today (Thur) at the British Psychological Society’s Division of Health Psychology Annual Conference, being held at the University of Bath.
The conference, themed ‘Behaviour, Health and Healthcare: From Physiology to Policy’, will look at how psychology can be applied at individual and group level to promote health, and even prevent illness, at a national level.