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Mind Over Matter: The Power of the Placebo Effect

Have you ever felt better just by placing a band-aid on a cut or scrape? Have you felt more felt more energized after taking a pill that is bright red?

If so, you have experienced the placebo effect.

What is the Placebo Effect and How Does it Work?

A placebo is an inactive treatment that mimics an active therapy. The effect happens when patients believe a placebo is effective. In turn, the placebo has an impact on their medical condition.

It’s not a real cure, of course. But the mind thinks it is. In fact, the placebo effect demonstrates how sometimes the concept of healing can be as influential as the care itself.

Many studies suggest placebos trigger a process in the brain similar to what happens when you take certain pain medications. The chemical process is likely different, but there is a similar pain relief effect.

Environmental factors and your own preconceived notions also play a role. For example, optimists tend to respond more positively to placebos.

There are limits: A placebo can’t mend a broken leg or shrink a tumor. Still, for certain patients who are dealing with pain, it can positively affect the perception of pain.

Why Placebos are Used by Scientists

The placebo effect comes up most often in clinical trials to test new drugs or medical treatments. Participants in studies are often split into one of two groups: those who receive a placebo and those who receive the real treatment.

Researchers do this to “sort out the effect of the specific therapy itself compared to the therapy of being treated,” says clinical researcher Michael Lincoff, MD.

You won’t usually find placebos beyond the research setting, though.

“To intentionally treat someone with a placebo is not really considered medical care,” Dr. Lincoff says.

Placebo Effects May Vary

The placebo effect doesn’t work on everyone, and even those who experience it show great variety of effects. Some people might continue to thrive even after learning they’ve been taking a placebo, while for others, it will stop working once they know the treatment isn’t real.

Sometimes it’s even hard to tell what is more effective: the placebo or the positive steps patients take at the same time toward improving their own health.

On the flip side,  there is also what’s called the “nocebo effect.” That happens when you believe a treatment will cause negative side effects and make you feel worse.

For both the positive and the negative, patients are conditioned by what has happened in the past — and that influences how they act in the future

Get REAL Treatment for Your Head or Neck Pain

While we don’t use placebos at Pasadena Pain Management, yet we do value their role in scientific study. We also believe it validates the theory of “mind of matter.” Psychological processes have powerful influences on your well-being — sometimes as powerful as actual medication.

If your in pain and are questioning a diagnosis or medication you are taking for migraines, headaches, TMJ jaw pain, or neck pain – contact us today for a FREE CONSULTATION.

We are helping people in Southern California live PAIN FREE again.