A new study is the first to demonstrate beneficial placebo effect for lower back pain sufferers who knew they were taking ‘fake pills.’ Patients who knowingly took placebos reported 30 percent less pain and 29 percent reduction in disability compared to control group. ‘Open-labeling’ addresses longtime ethical dilemma, allowing patients to choose placebo treatments with informed consent.
“These findings turn our understanding of the placebo effect on its head,” said joint senior author Ted Kaptchuk, director of the Program for Placebo Studies and the Therapeutic Encounter at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “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. Taking a pill in the context of a patient-clinician relationship — even if you know it’s a placebo — is a ritual that changes symptoms and probably activates regions of the brain that modulate symptoms.” Paper. (paywall) – Cláudia Carvalho, Joaquim Machado Caetano, Lidia Cunha, Paula Rebouta, Ted J. Kaptchuk, Irving Kirsch. Open-label placebo treatment in chronic low back pain. PAIN, 2016; 1 DOI: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000000700More.
We are strange creatures, even to ourselves. Not only can we, contrary to the latest “evolution” claim, understand reality, but we know when to just set it aside. 😉
See also: Parkinson’s patients learn to use placebos?
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