How much can you really trust your doctor? You see their degree on the wall, their knowledge of all the complicated equipment surrounding you, and that they seem to know what they’re talking about. But then again, how much do you really know about your health and how your body works?
Developing a trusting relationship with your doctor is essential to the maintenance of your health and general well-being. It’s important for you to feel comfortable with consulting them on how to stay healthy. After all, what they tell you could literally be the difference between life and death.
A report released last week, however, has left many scratching their heads about the openness of the doctor-patient relationship. Research out of Oxford and Southampton Universities in the U.K. surveyed doctors, with 97% admitting to prescribing placebos to patients.
Reaction to the news has been mixed. Some say it shows doctors believe placebos are an effective treatment method, while others suggest it displays a lack of honesty on behalf of physicians.
Placebos come in two forms: “impure” placebos, which have medicinal value but are unproven for the prescribed illness; and “pure” placebos, which have no medicinal value and just act like sugar pills (often used as the “control” pill in controlled studies). Typically, placebos are prescribed through low-dosage drugs, vitamins, nutritional supplements, or additional examinations.
Although placebos may have little to no medicinal value, they have been shown to “work” in one sense of the word. That’s because the mind is a very powerful thing, and if you believe something is working, it very well might.
That also explains one of the reasons why the majority of surveyed physicians prescribed placebos. Many times patients go to doctors claiming they are suffering from symptoms and insist on receiving treatment. When there is little evidence to support an illness and justify a medicinal prescription, doctors may turn to placebos.
Professor George Lewith of Southampton University told the U.K.’s Daily Mail newspaper that previous studies by the university have shown placebos help people and are prescribed in good faith. He also said that the “placebo effect” works by releasing the body’s natural painkillers into the nervous system.
A 2005 study from the University of Michigan Medical School illustrates just how effective placebos are. The brain’s activity in men was monitored after they received a saltwater solution that provided a stinging sensation in the jaw, after which they were given a placebo to take care of the pain. The men immediately felt better and the images captured show a flurry of activity in the parts of the brain that release our natural painkillers; the fake painkillers ended up stimulating the real ones. What’s even more interesting is that a 2010 Harvard Medical School study showed placebos worked even when patients knew they were taking them!
At the end of the day, it really all comes down to trusting your doctor and being honest with them. Here are a few helpful tips to get the most out of your relationship with your doctor:
• Ask as many questions as you can. Learn about what your symptoms mean and what course of action you should or should not take.
• If you trust your doctor, then follow their advice. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get a second opinion. We also know that doctors are so busy that it can be hard to get them to take certain pains seriously. In those cases, do your own research and consider discussing alternative remedies to deal with the pain with your doctor.
• Don’t self-diagnose.
Source(s) for Today’s Article:
Cameron, D., “Placebos work, even without deception,” Harvard Science web site, December 22, 2010; http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2010/12/placebos-work-%E2%80%94-even-without-deception/,
“Placebo sparks brain painkillers,” BBC News, August 24, 2005; http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/4176078.stm.
“What doctors wish their patients knew,” February 2011; http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2012/04/what-doctors-wish-their-patients-knew/index.htm.
“Nearly all doctors have given patients a placebo,” Daily Mail March 20, 2013; http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2296437/Nearly-ALL-doctors-given-patients-placebo-psychological-benefits.html.