August 28, 2009
Placebos May Truly Reduce Pain
For years, placebos have been given as a medical alternative to falsely reinforce a patient's expectations of feeling better. New research shows this dummy medicine may serve a higher purpose.
A new study conducted at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany shows that simply expecting a treatment to reduce pain can act as a pain killer. Endogenous opioids, produced naturally within the brain, are released into the body in small doses when placebos are taken. Hypothetically, the opioids "inhibit pain processing in the spinal cord and, therefore, subsequently reduce pain-related responses in the brain, leading to a decreased pain experience," lead author Falk Eippert was quoted as saying.
Experts plan to extend their study of opioids to other pain relief methods including hypnosis and attentional distraction.
SOURCE: Neuron, published by Cell Press, August 27, 2009