Is pain all in the mind?

Two London doctors underwent a hair-raising experiment to see if other cultures offer something more effective than popping pills.

It can be sharp or dull; it can last for a few seconds or for a lifetime. If it's bad it can make you vomit, and we spend millions a year trying to make it go away. Pain affects us all at some point.

In the West, the traditional treatment is a bottle of pills, in the form of analgesics such as ibuprofen or paracetamol. But painkillers can have unpleasant side effects, including addiction.

Is there an alternative to drugs? Two London doctors, Chris and Alexander ("Xand") van Tulleken, who are also identical twins, set out to investigate if we can learn anything about pain relief from other cultures.

Both twins, 29, studied medicine at Oxford University and trained at the city's Radcliffe Camera Hospital. They believe that Western medicine is missing a trick, so they teamed up with Channel 4 to do a series about alternatives to Western medicine, called Medicine Men; the second episode in the series examines pain.

"We heard about a Hindu festival in Malaysia, where people pierce themselves and claim to feel no pain," says Xand. "We wanted to learn whether there are ways of controlling extreme pain just with your mind."

So they decided to perform an experiment: they'd both get pierced at the festival, but one of them would prepare for it and the other wouldn't. Because Chris and Xand are identical twins, they are ideal subjects: one can be a control, the other a variable.

Source - Independent

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