If you suffer from back pain, neck pain or any other type of chronic pain, you’re very likely looking for ways to ease your discomfort. Sometimes it seems like the only thing you can focus on is the pain you’re feeling. But how much of that pain is the product of your thoughts? The answer might surprise you. Recent studies have shown that the mind can have a tremendous effect on how you perceive pain and that you might be able to lessen those feelings even without drug treatment. At Total Chiropractic Care and Wellness, we deal a lot with pain management, particularly for patients who have back pain. So we want to give you some facts about the relationship between back pain and the mind.
Placebos and Pain
When you talk about how much pain or illness is influenced by the mind, one subject that constantly comes up are placebos. Dictionary.com defines a placebo as “a substance that has no pharmacological effect but given merely to satisfy a patient who supposes it to be a medicine.” Very often placebos are used in control groups during scientific studies.
Placebos are considered by many to be just harmless pills, but a recent study shows that they can actually ease pain, even when patients know that they’re taking a placebo.
A Surprising Study on the Placebo Effect
The research, which was published in the October issue of the Journal Pain, looked at 97 patients who were experiencing back pain for a minimum of three months. According to the Huffington Post, most of the patients involved in the study were already taking medications for their back pain, with the most common medication being nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen.
The patients were divided into two groups, one group continued to take the medication they had been taking while the other group took a placebo pill. The researchers told those patients outright that they were taking the placebo pill.
They also gave them information about the phenomenon called the “placebo effect.” The placebo effect is defined by WebMD as the patient’s response to the placebo. It can be a positive or negative response.
The researchers described the placebo effect to the patients who weren’t taking medication as a “potentially powerful” phenomenon that results from people’s belief that a certain treatment works rather than from any physiological effect of the treatment, according to Huffington.
The study asked the patients to rate their pain level on a scale of 1 to 10. The patients who took the placebo reported a 30 percent reduction in their pain levels.
“Ultimately, patients got better, on average,” said Dr. William Lauretti, an associate professor at New York Chiropractic College in Seneca Falls, N.Y. and a spokesman for the American Chiropractic Association told the website Health Day. Lauretti says, traditionally, doctors have looked down on the placebo effect.
“These findings turn our understanding of the placebo effect on its head,” said Ted Kaptchuk, one of the study’s authors who is director of the Program for Placebo Studies at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, told Science Daily. “This new research demonstrates that the placebo effect is not necessarily elicited by patients’ conscious expectation that they are getting an active medicine, as long thought.”
Total Chiropractic Care and Wellness Can Help You Manage Pain
The findings indicate that pain management is about more than simply dispensing medication. At Total Chiropractic Care and Wellness, we look at a patient’s total health. It’s why we will discuss diet, exercise and lifestyle choices with our patients. We look forward to further research about pain management that goes beyond traditional treatment. If you’re suffering from back or neck pain, we can help. Contact us today.
Please note that the author of this piece is not a doctor and the information in this material is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your doctor or medical professional for specific information regarding your individual situation.