Nishigami, T., Wand, B., Newport, R., Ratcliffe, N., Themelis, K., Moen, D., Jones, C., Moseley, G., & Stanton, T. R. (2018). Embodying the illusion of a strong, fit back in people with chronic low back pain. A pilot proof-of-concept study. Musculoskeletal Science and Practice, Early View (Online First).
Objective: This proof-of-concept pilot study aimed to investigate if a visual illusion that altered the size and muscularity of the back could be embodied and alter perception of the back.
Methods: The back visual illusions were created using the MIRAGE multisensory illusion system. Participants watched real-time footage of a modified version of their own back from behind. Participants undertook one experimental condition, in which the image portrayed a muscled, fit-looking back (Strong), and two control conditions (Reshaped and Normal) during a lifting task. Embodiment, back perception as well as pain intensity and beliefs about the back during lifting were assessed.
Results: Two participants with low back pain were recruited for this study: one with altered body perception and negative back beliefs (Participant A) and one with normal perception and beliefs (Participant B). Participant A embodied the Strong condition and pain and fear were less and both perceived strength and confidence were more than for the Normal or the Reshaped condition. Participant B did not embody the Strong condition and reported similar levels of pain, fear strength and confidence across all three conditions.
Discussion: An illusion that makes the back look strong successfully induced embodiment of a visually modified back during a lifting task in a low back pain patient with altered body perception. Both participants tolerated the illusion, there were no adverse effects, and we gained preliminary evidence that the approach may have therapeutic potential.
pilot study, chronic lower back pain, visual illusions, back perception, therapeutic potential