Chronic Pain May Be Effectively Treated Using Placebo Effect

Pavankumar Kamat

July 16, 2020

According to a new study published in the journal Pain, placebo pain relief could be reproduced in patients with chronic pain compared with healthy volunteers.

Sixty patients with osteoarthritis and 79 patients with fibromyalgia as well as 98 healthy individuals were given an inert cream to be applied on their forehand. The placebo group was told that the cream may or may not be a local anaesthetic, whereas the control group was told that the cream was inactive. The participants were then subjected to laser pain and asked to rank the pain intensity before, during and after the application of the cream, along with their expected pain relief and anxiety. The procedure was repeated after two weeks.

The placebo group experienced a significant reduction in pain, regardless of clinical diagnosis. However, there was no difference in the magnitude of placebo analgesia or expectancy of pain relief. The results remained unchanged when the session was repeated.

The findings complement the team's earlier work which showed an association between 'alpha brain-wave entrainment' and expectation of pain relief in healthy volunteers and patients with chronic pain.

Professor Anthony Jones from The University of Manchester said: "This study shows for the first time that people with osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia can modulate their responses to experimental pain as efficiently as healthy individuals. There might be a way to treat these patients - and that’s exciting."

Power A, Brown CA, Sivan M, Lenton A, Rainey T, El-Deredy W, Peter Jones AK, Watson A. Individuals with chronic pain have the same response to placebo analgesia as healthy controls in terms of magnitude and reproducibility. Pain. 2020 Jun 24 [Epub ahead of print]. doi: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000001966. PMID: 32639369 Abstract.

This article originally appeared on Univadis, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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