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Placebos without Deception
I recently heard about the “Placebos without Deception” study, “A Randomized controlled Trial in Irritable Bowel Syndrome.” Prior to that study, the placebo effect was thought to work only when people weren’t aware that it was being used. A person was given a sugar pill instead of actual medication, and they got better because they believed it was the real thing. There is of course an ethical roadblock when experimenting with the placebo effect. In the study, patients were taught about the placebo effect and were then actually told that they were being given a sugar pill. They were instructed to treat the pill as if it was real medication. Surprisingly, 59% of the patients experienced relief from symptoms. Some attributed this to the ritual of taking medication. Others, simply to the mind’s amazing healing abilities. The placebo effect is very important when it comes to mind-body healing because it’s an acknowledgement by the medical community of the mind’s ability to heal.
John E. Sarno – TMS
I came across John E. Sarno’s theories on TMS via Richard Nikoley’s blog. Richard had been experiencing debilitating shoulder pain and after some hesitation and skepticism, he gave Sarno a try at the recommendation of others. It helped him greatly.
After reading some book reviews and doing a bit of background research on Sarno, I decided to give him a try for some chronic knee pain. I’ve only started applying his theories, so it’d be premature to jump to any conclusions, but I’ve had some success, think his theories make sense, and feel positive about the direction I’m heading with it.
Sarno will get his own post when/if the times comes. In the meantime, I’m very interested in the mind-body connection. I’ve always been fascinated by both psychology and natural health, so my interest in mind-body healing is no surprise. I’m starting to feel like my paleo / primal diet is becoming increasingly dialed in, and I’m on the right path with how I’m eating. It’s the mind aspect that I routinely neglect. And the more I read about it, the more I feel that it’s an area that deserves much more focus. As Dr. Kurt Harris pointed out recently, diet isn’t a cure-all, and there are many other facets to health and life.
The Mind-Body Connection
The mind-body realization was even more evident to me when I re-read some of William H. Bates’ work. (Someone else who warrants a separate post). I’ve been having computer eye strain issues lately, and I’ve tried to apply Sarno’s concepts to it, hypothesizing that computer eye strain may be a repetitive strain injury of the eye (Sarno considers repetitive stress injuries to be manifestations of TMS). Then I thought back to Bates and realized that he and Sarno were thinking along the same lines, except Sarno focuses on the back, and Bates on the eyes. Bates basically believes that all eye problems are caused by strain, and that the only way to have perfect eyesight and healthy eyes is to relax the mind. To me, that sounds pretty similar to Sarno, who believes that most chronic pain is due to tension. I suppose the main difference is that Sarno focuses on the psychological aspect, with a Freudian foundation. However, some people are not in complete agreement with those Freudian explanations, and say you can still benefit from his theories without fully subscribing to the Freudian ideology. I myself had some problems identifying with the Freudian-based approach.
However, the essence of what both Sarno and Bates are saying, is that physical pain is caused by a stressful/tense mind. This realization had a really big impact on me. How many of our physical problems are potentially caused by a distressed mind? A lot of us eat well and exercise, but overlook mental well-being.
Considering how much we have to potentially gain from a truly healthy state of mind, the amount of time most of us spend on this aspect of health seems extremely disproportionate. But in a way, that’s an exciting realization, because there is so much potential improvement to be had.
What are your thoughts on the mind-body connection?