Posts tagged ‘placebo’
We seem to be creatures of habit. Most of us feel comfortable when at least a portion of our lives is predictable and our relationships are dependable. That’s certainly true for me. I get comfort in knowing that from day to day my life won’t change dramatically.
There are some parts of our life, however, that we might not want to stay the same.
Perhaps we’d like to get rid of those extra pounds we’ve been lugging around. Or maybe we feel a change in employment would be a good thing.
Some people would like to change their relationship with chronic pain. Unrelenting pain that they come to expect day in and day out. It has become an integral part of their life.
Maia Szalavitz reports in TIME Healthland that “…serious, chronic pain affects at least 116 million Americans each year, many of whom are inadequately treated by the health- care system..”
There are many kinds of pain people may suffer from: headache, low back pain, arthritis pain, and pain without any identifiable source.
Another form of pain is “Fibromyalgia… a common syndrome in which a person has long-term, body-wide pain.
In the quest for relief from this national epidemic, many remedies have been offered, such as drugs (including marijuana), acupuncture, electrical stimulation, brain stimulation, and surgery. Placebos have been used, which sometimes have resulted in a lessening or elimination of pain. Psychotherapy, relaxation therapies, biofeedback, and behavior modification are also on the list of tried solutions.
Try as we may, nothing seems to adequately solve this public health problem. It results in millions, if not billions of dollars in lost worker productivity and health care costs.
Are these the only options for treating chronic pain?
Marilyn Baetz and Rudy Bowen looked at regular church attendance and spirituality as factors in treating chronic pain and found that they were associated with better psychological well-being. They conclude that frequency of religious worship attendance should be considered in the development of interventions to address pain.
Amy B. Wachholtz and Francis J. Keene of Duke University Medical Center support these conclusions in their own research into managing pain from migraine headaches.
“One recent study found that by using positive spiritual meditation [or prayer] twenty minutes a day, patients with frequent migraine headaches were able to improve their pain tolerance and reduce their frequency and severity…. This research indicates that patients with chronic pain conditions can be taught to use their existing spiritual resources in novel ways to reduce the negative impact that pain has on their lives.
Nineteenth century spirituality and health innovator, and founder of the Christian Science Church, Mary Baker Eddy explains in her book, Science and Health:
Whatever guides thought spiritually benefits mind and body. [page 149]
Baetz and Wachholz, seem to be finding, through research, what Eddy pointed out a century and a half ago. Spiritualization of thought can benefit the body, the seat of chronic pain.
Of all the research conducted on treating chronic pain, spirituality and prayer might be a fertile field with opportunities to uncover just how critical a role they play in treating this far too common condition.
John Clague is a retired sheriff’s office captain, father of two grown sons, and husband. He now works with the media to ensure accurate representation of Christian Science.
By John D. Clague, Christian Science Committee on Publication for Oregon
This is an updated version of a post I put up over a year ago. I recently posted it on my Oregonian blog “Health and Spirituality.”
The Institute of Medicine released a report in June, 2011 describing the prevalence of chronic pain in America. They report that it “affects at least 116 million American adults—more than the total affected by heart disease, cancer, and diabetes combined. Pain also costs the nation up to $635 billion each year in medical treatment and lost productivity.”
These astounding numbers are so large that finding a solution for this health problem should be a high priority for the health care community. The report offers many recommendations, but little was offered in how to eliminate pain.
One approach to treating pain, and other medical conditions, is the use of placebos. Some researchers see evidence that it rivals more traditional medical treatments in effectiveness, and yet is less expensive and doesn’t carry with it negative side effects. Jane E. Allen of the ABC News Medical Unit writes in a July 14, 2011 article “Placebo Effect Rivals Steroid Benefit for Asthmatics”:
“In the newest demonstration of how healing can be triggered by patients’ expectations of what medical attention can do for them, placebo treatments were as good as real medication in making asthmatic patients feel they were breathing more easily.
Daniel E. Moerman, an expert on the placebo effect at the University of Michigan-Dearborn said “patients’ feelings about what helps them feel better trump the judgment of the physician.” In those cases, he wrote, dummy pills “can be as useful as ‘real’ ones.”
On one level it’s encouraging to see the scientific community recognize, in this limited way, that the mind of the patient has an affect on his health. That’s clearly what’s at work when placebos are effective in treating physical conditions, including pain. The medical research makes this point.
I’m wondering, however, if we should see the use of placebos in treating pain, or any other medical condition, as the final solution. Perhaps it can point researchers in new directions for more effective pain care. Maybe it’s just the beginning of new solutions in treating pain.
In her writings over 100 years ago, the idea of consciousness affecting pain was described by Mary Baker Eddy:
In my exploration of how consciousness and spirituality affect health I’ve found that positive results extend beyond the possibilities described by those who do research on placebos. I’ve come to realize that the application of spiritual laws can bring healing to many medical conditions. I’ve personally experienced it.
Several weeks ago I strained a muscle in my knee. The next day, it was painful and I considered putting ice on it. Then I said to myself, “OR”, I could change my thought about the pain and know that my relationship with God could effectively and safely address it. After a few moments of prayer the pain quickly disappeared, never to return.
Because placebos involve some deception, I’m wondering if the placebo should be seen as the answer to the question of “how does consciousness affect health?” Maybe it should be taken as evidence that consciousness does affect health, and the extent to which this occurs goes beyond the use of “fake” medical treatment. Perhaps it’s through exploring, and coming to understand, the spiritual nature of man that permanent healing of pain, not just temporary relief, can be brought about.
To me, spirituality is the endgame, which not only makes the patient better physically, but also benefits him mentally and spiritually. Patients then feel as if they have been, not just tricked into health, but made new from the inside out.
By John D. Clague, Christian Science Commitee on Publication for Oregon.
Everywhere I go there’re runners. Here in TrackTown, USA there’s almost always an atmosphere of “get out there and go!”
But when Eugene hosts special track and field events the atmosphere is electric.
The University of Oregon is a track and field powerhouse, thanks to Bill Bowerman, one-time US Olympic track coach, and other great coaches, as well as Phil Knight, both co-founders of Nike. It hosts significant meets every year at its famous Hayward field, such as the NCAA West Preliminary Round, the Prefontaine Classic, and the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
But the creme-de-la-creme came this year, just like 2008, with the U.S. Olympic Team trials.
I’ve often wondered if the cheers of the crowd make a difference in the performance of top individual athletes. I’ve noticed that teams often win more games on the home field or court.
So what about the Olympics? In my quest to answer this question, this is what I found.
[C]ountries see an increase in their medal market share in the games after they are awarded host status, and then see another increase in medal market share in the games they host.
So if athletes appear to perform better in the Olympics and other sporting events when surrounded by their fellow countrymen, what about the rest of us? Could it be that having our own “cheering section” could help our performance somehow? Or is it more than that?
What about other areas of life? Could the home court advantage of fellowship with those that share the underlying commonality and approval of our values, culture, and spiritual ideals affect our health somehow?
There is some research to suggest that it does.
Faron Dice of SmileFM in Michigan discovered a number of studies that show there are health benefits that come with simply attending church:
-Church attendance is the number 1 predictor of marital stability (Journal of Marriage and the Family, 40)
-Attending church is helpful in the prevention of cancer, heart disease, and mental illness (National Institute of Healthcare Research in America, June 2000)
-Teens who attend church are 4 times less likely to commit suicide (Journal of Chronic Disease, 25)
-Church attendees stay half as long during hospital stays (Duke University)
-There is an additional life expectancy of 7 years (Demography, May 1999)
-People attending church report a 50% higher weekly average income (UCLA School of Medicine)
-Church goers have fewer heart attacks (National Institute of Mental Health)
-People attending church are physically healthier and less depressed (American Medical News, 03/96”
Based on their research, Doctors Michael Roizen and Mehmet Oz have found that “People who go to services more than once a week have half of the risk of major depression as those who attend less often — possibly because singing in the choir or visiting the sick makes you part of a group of caring, like-minded people.” They say, “a deeper understanding of the mysterious connections between spirituality and health will be medicine’s next big frontier.”
Looking back on my own experience, I do feel it’s helped me to live a healthy active life, and now research confirms it. I spend time with “caring, like-minded people”. They cheer me on and I cheer them on. We try to bless our fellow beings, and we share the conviction that spirituality is important to health.
Back to the Olympics. On Friday, August 3rd when Mo Farah won a gold medal and Galen Rupp won the silver in the 10,000 meter run, Farah acknowledged the crowd, which enthusiastically cheered him throughout the race.
“If it wasn’t for the crowd, I don’t think that would have happened,’ he said. ‘They give you that lift, that boost. It’s just incredible.” Rupp, too, benefited from the cheering.
‘I knew they were cheering for Mo, but I kept envisioning that I was back at Oregon at Hayward Field,” he said. “I got that same kind of rush that I did back then, and I was trying to feed off it as much as I could.’”
My congratulations to the Brits for hosting the Olympics and all their success. Just as these games represent thousands of hours of solitary, intense labor for athletes, many of us work hard during the week and need an occasional few moments of uplift and encouragement. My sincere hope is that we all have a cheering section like I found through worshiping and fellowship at church.
By John D. Clague, Christian Science Committee on Publication for Oregon
For as long as I can remember, new athletic achievements were initially regarded as unsurpassable. Records never to be broken. And yet, again and again, those records were shattered.
I’m guessing that we will see it happen more than once in the next couple of weeks at the Summer Olympics in London.
How does this happen? What is the force behind this phenomenon? Of course there are the latest techniques in performance: Advanced training, new diets, and regular rest. But most athletes use these. What gives that exceptional athlete an extra push at just the right time? Every coach and trainer strives to unlock that illusive element. How can they help their athletes perform beyond what they’ve done before?
I know there are others who want to know the answer to this question as well.
Northumbrian University in England has a researcher who is one such person. As head of the Sport and Exercise Science Department, Kevin Thompson wondered if he could get bicyclists to go faster than they had ever gone before, by tricking them. Tom Boland of The Canadian Press reports that Dr. Thompson had bicyclists try to catch a virtual avatar on a computer screen that was going faster than the cyclist thought it was. “The cyclists ended up … going significantly faster than they ever had gone before.”
Interesting study, but certainly not every athlete who ever broke a record had an avatar tricking her into better performance. In fact, this deceptiveness is reminiscent of the placebo effect usually associated with pills and surgery.
Doesn’t it seem like this study points out that the thoughts and expectations of the athlete allowed them to perform better, just like placebos tap into the consciousness of patients to cause them to get better?
Would any thoughts work? Certainly most athletes aspiring towards outstanding performance are hoping their thoughts will give them the margin of victory.
Perhaps Brent S. Rushall of San Diego State University hit on something significant when he looked at “thought content” and athletic performance through an extensive literature review. Rather than “tricking” athletes into performing better, he looked at how they can train their thinking, along with their bodies, to enhance performance. What he found was:
Task-relevant content, positive self-statements, and mood words … are … the structures that should be employed as thought content during a segmented competitive performance…the use of thought-content skills [is] an imperative for athletes wishing to maximize their performance and for coaches seeking to optimize their effectiveness.
It looks like athletes need to direct their thoughts in a specific way to maximize performance.
When I was a serious runner, occasionally I could hit “the zone” and have a very satisfying run. I was always trying to beat my best time, but usually with little success. I just couldn’t seem to get over the hump. Runners know exactly what I’m talking about.
But then, just when I thought I would never break the “barrier”, I did. And that happened several times over the course of my running career.
In looking back on how that happened, I see now that I did many of the things athletes should do. I trained, I ate nutritious food, I made sure I got a good night’s sleep, and I controlled my thoughts, especially while running. But the thoughts I used don’t match Rushall’s approach.
My mental ‘exercise’ was prayer. What Rushall calls “Task-relevant content, positive self-statements, and mood words” I would call communing with a higher being that is the source of my strength and ability. The more I did this, the better I seemed to perform athletically.
Now here’s the interesting thing. I’ve found that the same mental exercise that enhanced my physical abilities also seems to give me a sense of well-being all the time, not just when I’m engaged in an athletic activity. And, I’ve learned that when I address my health through prayer I seem to stay healthier and heal quicker than when I don’t.
One idea I’ve found helpful throughout my life, when applied directly to my health and physical pursuits comes from the writings of 19th century health researcher, Mary Baker Eddy. She says that “[t]he moral and spiritual facts of health, whispered into thought, produce very direct and marked effects on the body. (S&H, page 370)
I’m wondering if others have found “thought content” important to their athletic performance. Is it possible that a spiritual impulse can be a major factor behind health and athletic excellence?
By John D. Clague, Christian Science Committee on Publication for Oregon
Our culture’s relationship with food seems to be as complex as its relationship with body. And how they converge is like a love/hate relationship. Dissatisfaction with how our bodies look, what they weigh, our body mass index… all seem to occupy much of public thought. Advertising uses this obsession to peddle clothes, makeup, drugs, and diet schemes.
The public discussion about the struggle to be healthy centers on how we can change our bodies, and food often plays a role in this. Dieting, pre-portioned meals, along with workouts at the gym, are some of the less exotic versions of getting the “new you.” If you lean towards extremes then you might opt for gastric bypass or stomach stapling; maybe even steroids.
But, there’s more to it. Consider these three examples.
Hotel maids don’t exercise. That’s what Ellen Langer learned when she asked a group of them about this in a research project. After an initial set of measurements, Langer told half the group that what they did for a profession was a lot of exercise. After a month the group receiving no information about how hard they work exhibited no change from the initial measurements. The informed group, however, showed marked changes in their numbers, the kind that would normally be the result of exercise.
Hmmmm. Perhaps I should start thinking of sitting at the computer as a lot of hard work!
Then there’s Kevin Richardson, a prominent fitness trainer in New York, who wrote an interesting paper. He tells of a young man who made remarkable muscle gains by the use of steroids that were fake, unbeknownst to him.
And researchers at Yale looked at a creative twist with milkshakes (one of my favorites!). Two groups were given exactly the same milkshake. One group was told that it was a healthy low calorie shake, and the other group was told that it was off the charts with fat and calories. In actuality, the shakes were in between the two extremes.
Those who thought they were getting the low calorie shake showed no change in the production of a hormone that tells you you’re hungry. Those who thought they got the “indulgent” shake, however, showed a sharp decrease in its production, experiencing a reduced craving for food.
Here’s what I take from these experiments. What we believe is what we get. How we think about food, exercise, or even steroids determines how our bodies respond.
Contemporary researchers are just scratching the surface on the notion that our thoughts affect our bodies. Yet, this is not a new discovery. In the 19th century, when food was thought to have dramatic influences of a different kind on one’s health, medical researcher and spiritual healer Mary Baker Eddy concluded that:
“If mortals think that food disturbs the harmonious functions of mind and body, either the food or this thought must be dispensed with, for the penalty is coupled with the belief.”
I’m wondering if thought can determine our food/weight relationship without the trickery and deception of these experiments. Can we have a healthier body based on an understanding of the mind /body relationship that’s straightforward?
My choice is to recognize that it’s more my thought about the food, than the food itself, that affects me. I’m not saying its always easy to change your thoughts, but when you do, the effects can be real and permanent.
First published in My Oregon on OregonLive.com