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Using the Placebo Effect to Your Advantage

by Barbara D. Allan
Author of Conquering Arthritis

Doctors used to think that the placebo effect was psychological. Now scientists have direct evidence that the placebo effect is actually physical. In other words, the expectation that a pill or procedure will produce a medical benefit can trigger the same neurological pathways of healing as “real” medication.


Magic Pills
Photo by Jonathan Silverberg on

What Research Has Found

At the University of Michigan, scientists injected the jaws of healthy young men with salt water to cause painful pressure while PET scans measured the impact in their brains. During one scan, the men were told they were getting a pain reliever, but what they actually received was a placebo. In response, their brains immediately released more endorphin—chemicals that act as natural painkillers by blocking the transmission of pain signals between nerve cells. The men felt better.

According to an Associated Press report, one of the researchers who carried out this study, Christian Stohler, stated, “Our brain really is on drugs when we get a placebo.” Results with some especially strong placebo responders suggest “many brains can actually stimulate that (pain-relief) system more (than drugs do.)”

How is that for demonstrating the power of positive expectations?

Another study was done in Italy. Researcher F. Benedetti gave Parkinson’s patients a placebo and measured the electrical activity of individual nerve cells in the brain. Those neurons quieted down by about 40 percent, a change that correlated with a reduction in muscle rigidity and with the patients being able to move more easily.

Once again, strong and measurable physical improvements were brought about by the power of expectation alone.


How to Use the Placebo Effect to Your Own Advantage

What you believe shapes your world. Positive expectations alone have the power to create positive outcomes in your body.


  1. Make sure you the treatments and medications you use are ones that you believe in. If you truly expect that they will help, not only will you get the inherent benefits of the treatment, you will get the added benefit of the placebo effect.
  2. Make sure your practitioner believes in a positive outcome for you and takes the time to spell out in detail the exact nature of all positive changes you are likely to be experiencing. This will reinforce your own positive expectations.
  3. Avoid people who have negative expectations for your healing, especially doctors. If your doctors are telling you they can’t help you, find new ones. If you are told there is 'no cure' for your condition, get another opinion. Look around until you find someone with a good track record of helping people with arthritis and who has a strong expectation that the treatments he or she offers can help you.
  4. If you yourself have negative expectations, do whatever you can to replace them with positive ones. The truth is you have the power to heal yourself. Educating yourself on how others in your situation have already done this and noticing what thoughts and actions make you feel better are two excellent ways to shift your focus from negative to positive expectations.
  5. Even if you currently have no conscious idea of how to tap into your inherent healing power, start imagining exactly what it would look, sound, and feel like for you to heal. Describe in as much detail as you can exactly what you are doing, saying, and feeling as you experience the benefits of the healing process.

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1 Comments On Using the Placebo Effect to Your Advantage

My experience over the last 25 years is that Placebos do work quite well when one is pro-active about the kind of treatment he or she is doing. For instance I had spectacular results with the intravenous administration of nutrients when I had a life threatening bout of an inflammatory bowel condition. However, in this instance as in others, the Placebo Effect is temporary. We haven't as yet been able to tap into the brain's endomorphic response to such an extent that it could operate 24/7 for an indefinite period.

Date : 14th Jun 2013   |  By : Mark Mandell

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