Can Placebos Relieve Pain?

Can Placebos Relieve Pain?

May 08, 2017

When doctors run clinical trials on animals, they have to do so in a way that doesn’t trigger the placebo effect. If this odd medical quirk is powerful in four legged creatures, how much more potent is it in humans? Ted Kaptchuk decided to find out. His study of sham acupuncture treatments and genuine asthma inhalers found that the placebo effect changed the way patients perceived their breathing, but did not change their lung function. Yet contrary to popular belief, the placebo effect isn’t a magical cure, and this must be respected.

Placebos and Pain Management

Chronic pain patients are particularly prone to suggestion. The pain threshold rises and falls in direct relation to your thoughts. When researchers told their subjects that ice water would improve their pain, they tolerated it better. When they were told the opposite, their pain tolerance shrank. The challenge of treating pain lies in taking patients’ reports seriously while simultaneously activating the placebo effect. Your mind is powerful enough to reframe your pain, help you to relax into it more, and endure it more easily.

Placebos vs. Evidence-Based Treatments

In another study, migraine patients who took a placebo labelled as a migraine therapy experienced almost half the pain relief of patients who took a genuine migraine therapy. There is thus no substitute for evidence-based treatments. Physicians who treat pain syndromes must never use the power of positive thinking as a substitute for genuine therapies. They must take place in an environment that is honest, positive, and empathetic, but doctors must also get to the core of the problem.

Remove the cause and you remove the pain, which is why Pain Stop approaches interventions at their root. Patients don’t merely want their pain to stop, but to stop permanently and with minimal side effects. That is what they deserve.

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