The word “placebo” comes from the Latin “to please.” When doctors
discuss placebos, they are usually referring to “bogus” treatments that do
nothing, like sugar pills.
Placebos are often used in research studies. When a new drug is tested,
it is compared to a placebo. For example, research subjects are divided
into two groups. Half receive the test drug and others get a sugar pill.
The two groups are surveyed and compared. Sometimes, the people getting
the sugar pill report benefits. Placebos can “please.”
One doctor’s placebo is another doctor’s treatment. Some treatments
thought to be placebos, by medical doctors, may be truly beneficial.
Acupuncture and chiropractic are good examples.
If some treatments provided no real benefit and were only placebos, why
would research studies show them to be beneficial? Certain patients may be
more receptive to suggestion. Simply telling some people that they will
get better may help. Some doctors are also particularly good at
reassurance and providing a nurturing environment. A nurturing environment
can promote healing.
If you have neck or back pain, and if a non-conventional cure works for
you, it should not matter if someone else calls it a placebo. Acupuncture
or chiropractic, for example, may be right for you. Just exercise common
sense and check with your spine specialist before trying anything really