by Chiropractor Dr. Jon Gindhart, DC
Most of western medicine refers to the placebo response as a bad thing that interferes with research studies, can’t be quantified, and is just ‘in someone’s head’ First, what is the placebo response? In his book The Placebo Response and the Power of Unconscious Healing, Richard Kradin states that the placebo response is the cause of beneficial effects seen as a response to a non-specific treatment. For example, someone is given a sugar pill for pain and the pain disappears. There is no ‘mechanism of action’ as to why a simple small dose of sugar can accomplish what would normally take high dosages of prescription pain killers. What about anatomical or structural problems that can be more easily identified and cause measurable physical limitations in addition to pain? Check out the following case study below that was referenced in Kradin’s book…
Moseley et al. conducted a study in 2002 to evaluate a widely performed arthroscopic surgical procedure for osteoarthritis of the knee. Arthroscopy allows inspection of a joint cavity via illuminated fiberoptic scope. In this procedure, the skin overlying the joint is anesthetized, and an incision is made, where the arthroscope is introduced. With the arthroscope, it is possible to remove the fragments of degenerated cartilage that are thought to be causing inflammation, pain, and loss of joint function. In this clinical trial, one group of patients underwent arthrscopic joint surgery, while another group was anesthetized and given three stab wounds to the skin with a scapel – but no cartilage was removed (i.e. a sham surgery). The results: both groups showed comparable levels of improvement following their surgeries! So, the group that only thought they had the real surgery had just as much benefit in terms of pain relief and increased function as the group that actually had cartilage and scar tissue removed from their knee. Amazing!!
What does this tell us? There is more to healing than just the physical. Your brain plays an extremely important role in the healing process. As a matter of fact, some patients, after being told that their treatment was nothing more than a placebo, still retained the positive changes! This is because they made a decision to be free from the pain, and they were. Of course, the physical is important and cannot be ignored or ‘wished’ away, but our perception of the problem (and ourselves) can either lead to healing or continued sickness. How do you view yourself in your mind’s eye? Do you view or picture yourself as a healthy person or sick person? Do you take ownership of a disease process and call it ‘my ________’ and blame all of your pain on that, or view it as something that is just passing through? Learn to harness the power of the placebo and empower yourself for a healthier life!