Sunday, August 22, 2010

Acupuncture, Placebo Works the Same on Knee Arthritis, says Study

A new study indicates that those who think that they received acupuncture for knee osteoarthritis (but didn’t) and those that actually did receive acupuncture showed identical symptom relief.
CHONGQING, CHINA - JANUARY 9: (CHINA OUT) Chinese man Wei Shengchu displays acupuncture needles in his forehead during a self-acupuncture performance on January 9, 2007 in Chongqing Municipality, China. Wei inserted 1,200 needles into his head skin during the show. According to local media, the sixty-year-old acupuncturist is a cosmetic doctor from Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, who has the Guinness World Record for self-acupuncturing at 1,790 needles in his face. (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)

The study, which will be published in the September issue of Arthritis Care and Research, is the latest in a number of studies that have documented the value of the “placebo effect” in managing pain and in healing varied illnesses and disease.

The placebo effect was originally tested, albeit unknowingly, by an army nurse during World War II. According to Wired:

“When the morphine supply ran low, the nurse assured a wounded soldier that he was getting a shot of potent painkiller, though her syringe contained only salt water. Amazingly, the bogus injection relieved the soldier’s agony and prevented the onset of shock.”

This was the first reported case of the power of the mind—the power of belief –to heal the body. But there would be more. Today, all pharmaceutical drugs are tested against the placebo effect to see how effective a medication, minus belief, actually is.

There’s only one problem with this “scientific” test…you cannot really separate one’s belief from one’s activity—any activity. Time and again, the placebo effect has shown that those who believe that a medication is healing them or relieving their symptoms actually experience such an effect.

This most recent study that shows acupuncture and placebo having the same positive results on those who suffer from knee osteoarthritis is just more evidence in what we already now. But it goes a step farther.

According to WebMD, “The goal of the study was to evaluate the effects of the treatments and the impact of interactions between the health care provider and the patient. Acupuncturists were trained to interact with patients using one of two communication styles. One style, called ‘high expectation’ had the health care provider telling patients he or she has ‘had a lot of success treating knee pain’ therefore increasing a patient’s expectation. The second style, called ‘neutral,’ had providers telling patients the treatments ‘may or may not work for you.’”

And which approach do you think worked better in reducing the patient’s pain? That’s right…there was a “small but significant effect on pain and satisfaction with treatment” when the acupuncturist communicated a positive expectation to the patient.

In my opinion, the acupuncturists’ positive attitude added just a bit more “oomph” to the placebo effect. The provider’s positive attitude helped the patient to believe in the treatment which, in turn, caused their healing. In a healing or, really, any other endeavor, it all boils down to what you believe.

Speaking of which…what do you believe about the power of belief to put you over (or under) in life?

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