How powerful placebos could save the NHS millions - AND still cure illnesses

Sticking needles randomly into your body is almost as good as real acupuncture when it comes to back pain, according to a new study published last month.

Random needles are also just as good at improving the quality of life for Crohn's disease patients, another study found.

Why is this so? Sceptics say it's because complementary medicine is nothing more than a placebo.

A placebo is a treatment that has no active ingredient but makes the patient feel better simply because they trust the person administering it and believe the treatment will help. The placebo effect has long been used by conventional doctors as a label to discredit alternative treatments.

However, in the past few years there has been a revolution in scientists' understanding of placebos - indeed, some experts now believe they could even replace treatments such as anti-depressants.

"The placebo effect tells us that we have a powerful natural ability to control pain and produce other beneficial effects," says Professor Irvine Kirsch, psychologist and expert on placebos at the University of Hull. "We should be using this to boost the response to drugs and other treatments."

The medical interest in placebos has been stirred partly by brain scanning technology which has meant scientists can see what happens when you take a placebo.

Furthermore, there is increasing evidence that placebos can bring about genuine physiological changes in people suffering from pain, depression and even Parkinson's disease.

But the medical speciality that benefits the most from the placebo effect is pain treatment.

Source - Daily Mail

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