Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Power of Positive Thinking

A series of lab experiments conducted in Europe found that those patients who expect their analgesics to work get relief from their pain.  Those who were told their painkillers had been discontinued had more pain, even though they were actually continuing to receive the same dose. A patient’s expectations about the effectiveness of a pain drug appear to override the properties of the drug itself.

Scans Illustrate Phenomenon

Patient MRI scans conducted during the research show that, “volunteers had more activity in areas of the brain involved in memory and anxiety when they were expecting pain versus when they were expecting relief.  When the volunteers were told the drug would work, there was a boost in brain activity in areas associated with fighting pain,” says study author Dr. Ulrike Bingel, from the department of neurology at the University of Hamburg Medical Center in Germany.

Although the placebo effect is well documented, there is less research on the “nocebo” effect, in which patients have negative experiences when warned about the side effects or lack of effectiveness of a treatment, even if they are taking a placebo.

“This tells me that when we’re talking to patients and presenting therapy, the more positive we are about how the therapy is going to impact them, the better outcomes we’re going to have,” says Carla Rubingh, a pain management specialist and assistant professor of pharmacy practice at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha who was not involved in the study. 

Benefits of the Mind-Body Connection

Pathways is home to an innovative Integrative Therapies Program that includes guided imagery and meditation to help patients find comfort and relief.  Relaxation techniques use the mind-body connection to achieve relaxation. Using simple suggestions, the practitioner guides the patient or family member to make the changes they wish to achieve in their physical or emotional state. This is very effective in reducing stress and anxiety, and is helpful in pain management.

For more information about Integrative Therapies at Pathways visit our website and Integrative Therapies resource page for caregivers

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