A simple trick makes it appear as if the sufferer's arthritic joints has been replaced by healthier ones, causing the brain to believe it is less stiff and painful.
The technique, which has also been used to help amputees overcome "phantom limb" pain, could help millions of sufferers relieve the symptoms of arthritis without the need for more drugs.
In a small study, researchers from the University of California in San Diego helped eight patients reduce their pain by an average of one-and-a-half points on a ten-point scale after just a minute of treatment.
The results, announced at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting in Washington DC, have not been peer-reviewed but could provide a simple alternative to steroids or painkillers. Treating a patient with arthritis in their right hand, the researchers asked them to place it on a table and blocked it from view using an upright mirror.