Placebo Affects Spine as Well as Mind

Cort

Phoenix Rising Founder
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I think we're going to see more and more just how powerfully the mind effects our biology. This makes me think of opening up chakras (not that I know anything about chakras)

http://www.newsdaily.com/stories/tre59e533-us-medicine-placebo/

By Ben HirschlerPosted 2009/10/15 at 2:48 pm EDT


LONDON, Oct. 15, 2009 (Reuters) — It's not all in the mind -- the so-called placebo effect is real and reaches right down to the spine, German scientists said on Thursday.






The finding may help in the hunt for better ways to tackle pain and other disorders. Using modern imaging technology the researchers found that simply believing a pain treatment is effective actually dampens pain signaling in a region of the spinal cord called the dorsal horn, suggesting a powerful biological mechanism is at work.

"It is deeply rooted in very, very early areas of the central nervous system. That definitely speaks for a strong effect," lead researcher Falk Eippert of the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf told Reuters.
Eippert and colleagues used functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, to study changes in spinal cord activity.

They applied painful heat to the arms of 15 healthy men and compared the spinal cord responses when they thought they had been treated with either an anesthetic cream or a placebo.

Both creams, in fact, were inactive but the fMRI scans showed nerve activity was reduced significantly when subjects believed they were getting the anesthetic.

The ability of sham medicines with no active ingredient to produce real clinical benefits has long perplexed doctors and frustrated drugmakers. Patients are typically given either an experimental drug or a dummy in clinical trials and the fact that those on placebo often get better, too, makes it hard to determine whether a new drug is working.

The placebo effect is particularly strong when treating central nervous system conditions, like depression and pain.

Traditionally, experts have viewed the effect as psychological, but the new German research is the latest in a growing body of evidence that there is an important physical component.

Just what turns down pain signaling in the spine when a placebo is given is unclear, although Eippert suspects a range of chemicals including natural opioids, noradrenaline and serotonin may be involved.

Writing in the journal Science, Eippert and colleagues said their work "opens up new avenues for assessing the efficacy and possible site of action of new treatments for various forms of pain, including chronic pain."

The word placebo comes from the Latin for "I shall please."
 

Lisa

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Interesting! As many of us here have said, if a placebo can achieve results who cares that it is just a sugar pill. :)

I have been finding it fascinating that so many things like this, where science has a hard time explaining an effect such as this, it often comes back to the early part of human brain development.

by the way... never accept meds from a guy wearing a glove that dirty! :eek:

Lisa :)
 

dannybex

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Yes...

Very cool. Most of the folks I know who have recovered (or are nearly there) used some sort of belief system or a variety of mind-body techniques as a key part of restoring their wellness. Not all, but most.

We're so conditioned in today's society to believe the only way we'll get well from any illness is by taking a pill or drug (especially with all the ads on television) that we forget how potentially powerful our body's ability to heal can be.

Even when it comes to naturopathic medicine, where EFA's are proclaimed to be universally 'essential'.

A couple of weeks back I asked my acupuncturist if TCM uses any oils in therapy. He looked at me with a puzzled expression.

I said, "You know, essential fatty acids, like fish, flax, borage or evening primrose oils."

He paused, then said no. They just use herbs...and food. Now maybe the oils come from foods or herbs, but they look at so many things from a completely different perspective than we do. For example, the treatment for beri-beri in Western culture is thiamine (vitamin b-1). In TCM, it's two different herbs (don't have the book in front of me) neither of which contain any thiamine.
 

Victoria

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I'm with you Lisa, I don't care whether it's a placebo or not, if it works, then it fulfills the patient's desire for positive improvement.

(as long as it doesn't cost a fortune, of course).

Victoria

PS my internet wireless connection has been down all day yesterday & this morning at home, & I have had withdrawal symptoms from loss of contact with the Phoenix forum. Just goes to show that contact with like minded people who you can relate to during your day, makes a big difference in your life. And this is only the second weekend I've had the internet at home!!!!
 
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I'm with you Lisa, I don't care whether it's a placebo or not, if it works, then it fulfills the patient's desire for positive improvement.

(as long as it doesn't cost a fortune, of course).

Victoria

PS my internet wireless connection has been down all day yesterday & this morning at home, & I have had withdrawal symptoms from loss of contact with the Phoenix forum. Just goes to show that contact with like minded people who you can relate to during your day, makes a big difference in your life. And this is only the second weekend I've had the internet at home!!!!
I agree - if a placebo works, I'm for it. Find it interesting though, that for many of us, the easiest belief "cure" is from the placebo effect - usually from a pill from a doctor. Guess it's growing up western in the middle/end of the "science is God" era - know I still have to remind myself that whatever dr, specialist I'm seeing is not "god", just an expert, hopefully, in their field. They may not know about other fields + I may even know more about a specific area of their field - that I am ultimately responsible for my own health. I still want to believe in that magic pill that a dr is going to give me.

Science is now starting to support "old wives tales", other systems of health, and religion - showing for eg that meditation has benefits that science can analyze; that belief can influence outcomes. Other forms of belief systems, mind-body techniques are slowly becoming part of our accepted reality. When I started yoga and tai chi it definitely made me non-mainstream to some. Now yoga is everywhere. And Wayne Dyer speaks of the power of intention...... Found it interesting that Cort was reminded of chakras - I've done some chakra work, and tai chi, chi gong and TCM all use chi pathways & I feel them all. My north american academic training had not prepared me for this. But I just decided to respect my experience and try to learn about it on the way. And even if I didn't learn, to continue to deepen the experience. Nice that this study superimposes the 2 worlds a bit!
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Agree Victoria too re the slightly addictive nature of this site. Hope you didn't get the shakes or see pink elephants. I just started using it when cort emailed re the xmrv news (think i'd joined before that but wasn't up to reading then). Now am busy exploring the site and on a few times a day. So many great people & attitudes, and so much good info and/or speculation. What a find. Glad you've got net access at home now!