You’ve probably heard of the famous placebo effect many times, but do you know what it is about, exactly? Researchers use the placebo effect during studies to understand exactly what effect a new medicine or treatment has regarding a particular medical condition. But, the human brain is more capable than we think, and the simple thought that something can heal you may be enough to actually heal yourself. So is the case that placebo pills may help with back pain, which will be discussed later in this article.
During clinical studies, for example, some participants receive a new cholesterol-lowering drug and the others will receive a placebo treatment without being told what type of treatment they received.
Then, researchers compare the effects of drugs and draw the final conclusion on the real improvements brought about by the actual treatment. In this way, they can determine the efficacy of the new drug, and can also check the onset of side effects.
What is the Placebo Effect?
Sometimes a person may have a specific response to the placebo treatment. The answer may be positive or negative. For example, the person’s symptoms can improve to the same degree as the person is at risk of experiencing what the side effects of the treatment will be. These responses are known as the ‘placebo effect‘.
There are some conditions in which a placebo can produce results even when people know they are taking a placebo. Studies show that symptoms include depression, pain, sleep disturbances, irritable bowel syndrome, or even menopause.
On the other hand, in a study involving an asthma research, participants who used a placebo inhaler did not get better results in breath tests than those who used real-time treatment but when researchers asked everyone to think about how they felt, the placebo inhaler was reported as being as effective as the real inhaler in providing relief.
How Does the Placebo Effect Work?
Research on the placebo effect focused on the relationship between the mind and the body. One of the most common theories is that the placebo effect is due to a person’s expectations. If a person expects a pill to do something then it is possible that his own body chemistry may cause effects similar to what a drug might have caused.
Experts also say there is a relationship between a person’s expectations about the effects of the treatment and the appearance of the effects themselves. The stronger the feeling, the more likely the person will experience positive effects!
The Power of the Mind
The connection between body and mind is obvious. You would be amazed at how strong this is and how our thoughts affect our health, even the depression or the stress.
Studies show that stress or depression can change physically, and may even modify organs’ functions.
Peter L. Strick, a doctor at Thomas Detre of the Department of Neurobiology and Scientific Director at the Pittsburgh University’s Brain Research Institute, said that ‘results came out more complex and interesting than what we’ve imagined learning at the beginning of the study.’
In terms of motor areas in the brain, the connection is the right movement. Being able to dance and do exercises creates connections between basic body movements and stress relieving. For this reason, Yoga or Pilates are so important to the mind and to the body, in the same measure, not to mention their spiritual appearance.
Dance and exercises require flexibility, alignment, and coordination. Putting all the elements together, the connection becomes obvious.
Studies on post-traumatic stress indicate that these connections are responsible for conflicts management and errors management. For example, just thinking about past events and emotions, we send stress signals to the adrenal medulla. Have you ever felt bad in the back of your stomach? Yes, this is a proof of influence and connections that can be clearly seen in people who suffer from post-traumatic stress.
The same power of the mind is applicable in the case of self-healing. It may sound like science-fiction but it is real. When we think, it has been proven that our brain emits vibrations on different frequencies. When negative thoughts invade our mind, we expose ourselves to stress, even though it is not sensed at first. When thinking positive, it seems that our body feels better too, not only our mind.
On the same idea, when thinking that something can heal you and really believe into that idea, then healing may really occur.
Placebo Pills May Help with Back Pain
A 3-months study was conducted on 100 people suffering from back pain. The researchers split them into two groups. The first group was assigned to a treatment with regular pain relieving medication, such as ibuprofen, while the second group was assigned to take the same medication but, additionally, placebo pills.
Usually, the researchers are hiding the fact that they offer placebo pills but not in this study. Scientists told the people from the second group about the placebo pills, telling them about the power of the placebo effect and that the people’s belief is involved in the effectiveness of a pill that is not containing any active substance.
The study concluded that people who took the placebo pills in addition to their regular medication reported a lowering in the back pain of about 30%. On the other hand, those who didn’t take the additional placebo pills reported that they felt no change in the levels of their back pain.
Researchers Concluded with Two Theories
The first theory said that people might have been deceived to believe in the power of the placebo effect when they were told about it before the beginning of the study, while the second theory said that there might be a chance that those people in the second group didn’t believe the fact they were taking a placebo pill.
No matter what exactly happened there, it seems the placebo pills may help with back pain if you really believe they will and this being the case with almost any placebo.