Friday, June 5, 2009

The Placebo Effect

Placebo in Latin means "I shall Please" and has its origins in medicine that was used more to please the patient rather them benefit them. Today, placebos are used in many forms that most of us would not even recognize. While many of the regular health care procedures we gravitate towards appear to be backed by scientific studies, many of the same positive results can be done without these routine health care procedures.

Placebos are anything from a sugar pill to an inactive or fake medication or treatment which is designed to mimic a drug or medical treatment and given in the same way. After a placebo is administered, any improvement in the health and well being of the individual whether felt, observed or measured is called the placebo effect.

In 1955, the work of Henry K. Beecher, titled "The Powerful Placebo" was published. In 15 trials, he claimed that 35% of the 1082 patients documented, were satisfactorily relieved by the placebo alone. Some researches now suggest that placebos can be just as effective as any medical treatment.

When I was a kid, my grandparents had been involved in a car accident on the way to our house. They were not seriously injured and were released after being checked out. While they rested at home, the doctor had prescribed some pain pills for my grandfather to take if needed. He of course needed them and so he took them as if they were treats. Unfortunately, we lived in a rural area, so he quickly ran out and because it was the weekend, there was no place to obtain these from until Monday. My mom, growing tired of hearing my grandfather complain about the pain he was in and how badly he needed the pain pills, devised a plan to treat him. She took the little sugar candies we got at Halloween called smarties and told him that these were very high powered pain pills. She convinced him that they were much better than his regular pain pills even though he questioned her that they looked like candy. And believe it or not, they worked. I actually remember him remarking to my mom that these pain pills were the best things he had ever taken.

When I worked around farms and would make visits with the Veterinarians, we had what we called the "boiling water option". Sometimes you needed to treat the people taking care of the farms as much as the animals. So often I would run into situations where some of what the care takers would see was not real. They perceived it was but from an objective mind, you just could not isolate what they saw. So instead of wasting money on medications that were not needed, we would find ways to make it look like we were doing more than we were. Often, we joked that we were "boiling water" so to speak but in all reality, it was a placebo. It worked every time!

In many clinical research trials, placebos are given to all test subjects prior to the start of the test without any of them knowing this. If there is a positive response during that time, then this test subject is kicked out of the trial results. In fact, more often than not, the prefrontal regions of the brain showed changes in activity as a result of the placebo.

Consider how many times you go to a doctor and you tell them your symptoms, which of course results in them giving you a "name" for the condition you have as well as a "medication" or "treatment" to get rid of the condition you have. While there are situations where this form of medicine is necessary and critical, much of it is interfering with not only the function of the mind and body but with the messages the body is trying to alert the person to. There is great power in having a name to put to our condition but often times, it becomes a hinderance because we tend to vibrate towards the condition instead of vibrating to heal it.

In our society, we are so closed off and shut down to all the messages that our bodies put out in a day. We barely listen and if we listen, we have almost inactivated that part of us which is there to help us. Instead we want to numb that which we feel and get rid of it so we do that through many different methods in our days including medications and medical treatments. If only we learned to listen to our bodies and listen to the messages from the pain or from what we felt, we would offer ourselves so much more than we could possibly imagine. The mind is very powerful and the body has the ability to heal itself from many of the conditions we face. Please don't get me wrong in that I am suggesting medicine or medical intervention plays no role because it does. However, until we learn to listen to ourselves first, we are only short changing life for ourselves. The more you interupt the normal balance and homeostasis in the body with the introduction of outside cures, the more you inflame the situation and force the propagation of it into other areas of your life.

While there are scientific reasons and research for medicine to suggest certain procedures, more often than not, the person may alleviate the symptom only to find the onset of another symptom or condition. Yet, in our society, this is the way we view things because as I say again, we have shut ourselves down to listening to our bodies. Some of the messages and pains coming through are more than we have the tools to deal with and so it is easier to just turn everything off. The only thing is, it is much more dangerous in the long term for our life.

I remember one lady I know that told me how she had suffered from a severe stroke at one point in her life. Talking to her and getting to know her, you could not tell that she had suffered from this condition. What astounded me more though was when she shared with me that she did not go through the normal health care routine to recover from it. She used alternative methods completely and recovered fully. She did not use conventional means to recover. There are many stories like this that I'm sure we have all heard and yet for some reason, we chalk them up to being some sort of miracle (which sometimes it may be) or we think that it only happens to others. We are the ones in control of our bodies and our health and we need to take that role much more serious than we do.

When I was paralyzed in 1991, the doctors didn't fully seem to know how to treat me or get me beyond my physical limitations. It was as if they were going to let time takes it course in whatever way it turned out. My impression was that they really didn't have a clue on how to get me from the point I was to the point I am at today. For years I struggled to fully regain all parts of myself even though most people would have not noticed what I saw in myself. At first, I had no clue how to get there and it took much discovery, searching and time for me to find my way.

Today we are blessed with the internet and especially google searches. There is a wealth of information out there and a wealth of experience that many people share about the conditions they have experienced. Many times, if we look long enough through the internet, we will find alternate ways that others have used to treat their own conditions and illnesses. Many times, these are not through conventional health and medicine that our society subscribes to.

So my challenge to you is if you are going through some type of health condition as long as it is not life threatening, consider the following points. (if you are in a life threatening situation, than by all means find qualified medical help. Use your common sense here, please).

  1. Listen to what your body is telling you and see if there are any current, past or just prior events that may be going on in your life. See if these events have any connection to your situation in the moment because many times they do. We just have to listen to our bodies.
  2. Search and seek out information through the internet, others or your higher power to help you find the best course of treatment for yourself. This could include the use of medical help and it may also include forms of treatment that you have never tried or are not aware of.
  3. Don't stop there! Keep searching for more information, discovery and knowledge because as you find one piece of the puzzle, it will open up more of what you know. You may not have any knowledge of how to get past this in the moment, but if you start searching, you will find the way through.
  4. Realize that pains, conditions, illnesses are often situations that are designed to get our attention and tell us something. It is our body's feedback mechanism and all to often, we ignore this. Start listening to it. Start allowing it to help you harvest more from your life and experience as a human. We are much more than we currently know.

I have seen conditions in people healed that I didn't think were possible and I have had this happen within myself as well. It isn't far fetched and it isn't some new age mumble jumble. This is real and it happens every day. Our bodies are wonderfully designed and they constantly work towards balance or homeostasis. It is what we do to our bodies and how we respect and listen to them that takes us out of balance. Stress, trauma and daily events in our lives do impact them as well, but we are designed to be much more than we currently are. Embrace that part of yourself and see youself for all you are, not what you aren't!

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