Therapeutic Placebo Effect:A Mind/Body Connection

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Therapeutic Placebo Effect:A Mind/Body Connection

Imagine you go to your doctor for chronic back pain and she tells you that she's going to give you a drug, yet she's not sure of its effectiveness because only approximately 40% of her patients have found it to be beneficial. How sure will you be that the outcome of this treatment will be positive? However, what if your doctor tells you she is giving you the newest, most beneficial drug treatment on the market and that she is very sure of how helpful it will be? Imagine the difference just a simple positive statement from your doctor will make when you take the pill every day. Not only will you be trusting of your treatment, but that trust will lead you to be confident (Endnote 1) that you will feel better - and in most cases, you will.

This is an example of the placebo effect - a self-made natural healing response of the body. No matter the fact that in both instances your doctor is giving you the same medication, her belief and yours in the treatment will most likely result in more positive effects. Many people argue that alternative methods of healing (such as hypnosis, therapeutic touch, homeopathic remedies, etc) are basically a placebo effect taking place. Yet, doesn't this fact prove the power of our minds both in health and in issues of pain management? Most modern scientists tend to separate the mind from the body, at least implicitly, suggesting the "mind" is simply a construct with little meaning. The one-cause, one- cure philosophy of science today often disregards the role of the mind in health and healing. Yet many of us even daily acknowledge the power of the mind when we say "oh, you're not sick- it's all in your mind". The placebo effect is not totally understood, yet this fact should not lead anyone to believe that its effects should be discounted. The placebo effect has been documented to be very powerful.

A placebo is a medicine or other kind of treatment that seems therapeutic, but in reality is inert and pharmacological inactive (2). The placebo effect is "a change in a patient's illness attributable to the symbolic import of a treatment rather than a specific pharmacologic or physiologic property" (3). Note that a placebo is not even necessary to result in a placebo effect.

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