Mind over Matter Migraine Treatment

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February 25, 2014

Walking over hot coals is an example of the principle ‘mind over matter’ in action. While it is certainly an extreme extension of the theory, a pill’s placebo effect can yield a similar outcome in people receiving pain treatment for migraines.

According to a recent story on the Fox News website from Phoenix, migraine treatment may be enhanced when medication is combined with an intended placebo effect. Medical experts, from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School in Boston, performed this latest research study.

According to the research story, published in Science Translational Medicine and reported on Fox News in Phoenix, 66 migraine sufferers were administered either a common migraine drug or a placebo tablet. Interestingly, when the patients were told the pill would help, they reported an improvement in their migraine symptoms, whether they received the actual drug or the placebo.

The patients were given 6 envelopes containing pills labeled placebo, placebo or Maxalt (rizotriptan), or Maxalt. They were asked to self-report their migraine symptoms 30 minutes after the onset of a headache and then 2 hours later. After which time, they were provided the migraine treatment envelopes.

They reported improvements with all treatments but the placebo effect was positively correlated with the level of positive medication information provided. Although they reported symptom relief with the placebo pill, they reported a higher level of benefit when told the treatment was Maxalt (whether or not this was actually the case). The optimal benefit however, was achieved with the actual drug.

The power of the mind can be truly remarkable when treating pain. The researchers suggested, according to Fox News from Phoenix, migraine treatment might benefit from taking advantage of the placebo effect. When the migraine drug was administered together with information that it was the real drug, patients reported a 50 per cent increase in symptom improvement compared with improvement level reported when they were told the drug was a placebo. One of the study’s lead author’s reportedly said, “this tells us that the effectiveness of a good pharmaceutical may be doubled by enhancing the placebo effect.”

Positive information and the placebo effect seems like a more pleasant way than walking on hot coals to try out the ‘mind over matter’ principle.


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