Suggestion In Treatment Of So-called Rheumatisms

How much the treatment of these so-called chronic rheumatisms depends

on suggestion, in spite of the apparent improbability of anything so

materially discomforting being under the influence of the mind, is

best appreciated from a consideration of the many inert materials that

have been used for the cure of rheumatism. There is, of course, no

more virtue in red flannel than in any other colored flannel, but many

people suffer from rheumatism or rheumatic discomfort whenever they do

not wear red flannel and are sure that it means much for them. Then

there are all sorts of supposed electrical contrivances that do not

generate an ion of electricity. They are effective only through the

appeal they make to the mind. Some men wear electric belts and

attribute their freedom from rheumatic pains to them. Others wear

so-called electric medals or electric shields or electric insoles. Any

number of people in this country wear electric rings on the little

finger of one hand and get marvelous relief from it for their chronic

rheumatism. Some have noted good results from even less likely

objects. There are thousands in this country who carry horsechestnuts

as a preventive against rheumatism, and some of them,

intelligent men and women, are persuaded it lessens their pains and


In another place I have told the story of the woman who was a sufferer

from rheumatism and who found great relief from carrying a

horsechestnut. As her husband was also a sufferer, she wanted him to

carry one, too, and when he would not, she carried one for him. It is

to be hoped that her conjugal tenderness in this matter had as good an

effect on him as she was sure the propinquity of the horsechestnut had

on her.

The patients' occupations must be regulated by proper advice and

detailed directions, and distractions of various kinds must be

provided to keep their minds from becoming concentrated on certain

portions of their body, emphasizing whatever discomfort is present and

preventing nature's curative processes. Finally, local treatment of

various kinds must be employed suitable to each individual case, that

will remove all mechanical difficulties, disperse congestions, relieve

fatigue and over-tiredness, and make conditions favorable for the

healthy, normal use of joints and muscles.

Many painful affections of joints, sometimes complicated by

immovability, are really psycho-neuroses. Sir Benjamin Brodie once

said that four-fifths of the joint troubles that he saw among the

better classes were hysterical. Sir James Paget thought this an

exaggeration, but confessed that he saw many of them and among all

classes of people. One-fifth of those that he saw in hospital and in

private practice were entirely neurotic. He emphasized the fact that

they must be looked for not only among women but that they are often

found in men and that they are by no means confined to those who are

nervously inclined, the silly young women or the foolish old women,

but that they may be found in special circumstances among the most

sensible people. They are often initiated by an injury which makes it

quite difficult to differentiate them from real joint affections.

Usually, however, there is no redness, nor swelling nor heat with

them, though sometimes one of these symptoms at least may occur with

the redness. The connection between the trivial accident and the large

reaction is usually hard to find and causes a suspicion as to the real

process at work. Often, too, there is a delay of several days or

sometimes weeks after the accident before the neurosis declares

itself. In the meantime it has been getting on the patient's mind.

In general, it must be remembered the patient's attitude of mind in

these cases of pain around joints and in muscles is extremely

important. They have furnished a goodly proportion of the patients on

which quacks and charlatans have fattened. Greatrakes in the

seventeenth century, Mesmer and Perkins, St. John Long, the early

electrotherapeutists, the blue glass faddists, all the various

liniment makers, many of the manufacturers of blood purifiers, and

Eddyism and mental healing besides osteopathy in our day have all

benefited these sufferers for a time and the patients have often been

men and women of education and influence in their communities and have

exerted their influence for the benefit of their supposed benefactors.

The methods of treatment come and go. The promise of the physician or

the healer and the confidence of the patient are the only factors that

are common to all the supposed "cures." If people stay at home without

the air and exercise they should have, if they nurse their ills and

consider that they are sure to get worse, because they labor under

hereditary or constitutional ailments, nothing will benefit them.

If they are convinced that their disease is only local and begin

to go out to see their friends once more, a change comes over the

whole aspect of their disease.

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