The Placebo Effect: Can Your Mind Really Heal?

History confirms instances where our minds heal our bodies. How encouraging if such a technique can change how we feel and make us well. It’s called the placebo effect. Can it really make way for a better life? Let’s look at some situations and see how it works.

medical chartA placebo is a substance or treatment with no known medical benefits. It is a fake treatment that produces genuine improvement in the symptoms. The word “placebo” comes from Latin meaning “I shall please.” Placebos appeared in the 18th century when patients demanded improvement in their physical condition. In response, some physicians dispersed inert drugs. Some got better. In 1775, the English bishop John Douglas determined that modern research was based on the placebo effect.

In 1978, a study was done using a placebo with patients undergoing dental extraction and was proven effective. While placebos are helpful to some people, it continues to be an ethical issue.

There was an experiment where two groups of people had to have knee surgery. One group thought they were getting the surgery but did not. The other group actually had the surgery. Results? You guessed it. Both groups reported pain relief as a result of the surgery.

Research suggests that expectancy is the key to positive physical and psychological results

Another study was done to determine the reduction of pain as a result of the placebo effect. They were given a pill and told that their pain would diminish. The most studied and strongest placebo is in the reduction of pain. According to some estimates, approximately 30 to 60 percent of people will feel that their pain has diminished after taking a placebo pill. So what is going on here? 

Placebos have proven effective from various diseases, pains, coughs, headaches, sleep, depression and anxiety.

There was a study done with hotel maids to determine how much exercise effects how their bodies really look. Sixty seven percent of the women did not see themselves as that active even though they exceeded the surgeon general’s recommendation for daily exercise. They also did not see themselves as very attractive.

When their body fat, blood pressure and weight and body mass were measured it matched the maids’ perceived amount of exercise. The study proceeded to change perceptions by informing half of a group that they already met the surgeon general’s definition of an active lifestyle. The other group of maids did not receive any instructions. After a month, measurements were taken again. They were surprised to find that the first groups’ blood pressure and weight decreased.

While none of their work activities changed, it is believed that the change was in the women’s mindset. This is an example of the placebo effect. If you believe you are exercising, your body may respond as if it is. If you are getting a sugar pill your body may respond as though the treatment is actually working. Wouldn’t it be nice to know that we could sit around eating chocolates and still lose those extra pounds.

Another fascinating study demonstrated how researchers gave asthmatic patients a drug that actually makes asthma worse. They were told that it would improve their asthma. The results concluded that a significant number of the patient “got better” and the physical tests and lung findings supported the patients’ medical reports improved.

This 3 minute video that shows the power of the placebo:

So, is there a placebo you would like to try to make a difference?

Hmmm…I wonder if the placebo effect works when you come see Dr. Carole.

Listen to Dr Carole discuss the Placebo Effect

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