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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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