A Placebo Is Much Better At Relieving Pain If The Doctor Believes In It

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A Placebo Is Much Better At Relieving Pain If The Doctor Believes In It
A Placebo Is Much Better At Relieving Pain If The Doctor Believes In It

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A placebo is much better at relieving pain if the doctor believes in it

The doctor's confidence in the efficacy of the agent used improves the results of treatment. A new study has shown this in the treatment of pain with a cream that does not contain any pain relievers.

A placebo is much better at relieving pain if the doctor believes in it
A placebo is much better at relieving pain if the doctor believes in it

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The doctor's confidence in the efficacy of the agent used improves the results of treatment. A new study has shown this in the treatment of pain with a cream that does not contain any pain relievers. The results of a series of experiments by scientists from Dartmouth College in the United States are published in the journal Nature Human Behavior.

The effect of the treatment is stronger if the doctor believes in the medicine. It doesn't even require the doctor to tell the patient anything. The scientists tested their theory on 24 study participants who played the role of patients. Each of them was assigned a person who played the role of a doctor.

Each of the "patients" felt the painful effects of a hot object applied to their hand. The participant, who played the role of the doctor, was then given one of two types of soothing cream. The organizers of the study told the "doctors" that one of the creams was a recommended burn medicine called termedol, and the other was a fake. However, in reality, both creams were not drugs - in both cases it was simple petroleum jelly, but in different packages.

Despite this, "patients" who were not told anything about any of these creams experienced significantly greater pain relief with the use of the cream, which the "doctor" believed was supposed to relieve pain.

The course of the experiment was recorded by a hidden camera connected to an artificial intelligence system programmed to interpret the reaction of the “patient's” face to pain (movements of the lips, eyebrows). The sensors attached to the skin of the "patient" also recorded a decrease in psychophysiological arousal when using the cream, which, according to the "doctor", was supposed to relieve pain.

The "patients" then reported that when the "effective cream" was used, the participants in the role of the doctor appeared to be more empathetic. The experiment was repeated several times, varying the order of using one or another cream, although in both cases simple petroleum jelly was used.

“Our results indicate that subtle aspects of social interaction can influence clinical outcomes. Although the participants only played their part, it can be imagined that in the context of a real clinical situation, if medical professionals seem to the patient to be more competent, sensitive and confident that the treatment will be effective, then the results of the treatment of a real patient will be better,”says the professor Luke Chang, lead author of the study.

The authors of the experiment argue that subtle non-verbal factors "can have a large impact on the sensation of pain" and hope that their work will stimulate research into non-drug mechanisms of its relief.

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