Placebo analgesia hasa stronger effect in patients with pain than healthy adults

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Placebo analgesia hasa stronger effect in patients with pain than healthy adults

Over the past few decades, researchers manifested that variety of studies have showed the effect of placebo in different clinical conditions of pain, chronic pain, and experimentally induced pain. In addition to this, some other studies of low back pain reported greater analgesic effects in clinical as compared to experimental pain. In the same study, same patients received placebo treatment for both clinical and experimental pain (back pain and pain induced by a cold pressor test, respectively), interestingly, they found significant effect for the clinical pain as compared to experimental pain.

Researchers at Norwegian University of Science and Technology revealed that the patients with pain benefit more from placebo treatment than do healthy individuals. They led a meta-analysis in an attempt to explore this relationship more clearly as there is lack of data comparing the effect between the two groups within the same study. Meta-analysis included 71 studies covering 4239 participants i.e. 55 of the studies covered healthy individuals and 16 studies covered patients with pain with five studies focused on clinical pain and 11 studies focused on experimentally induced pain.

The findings exhibited average effect sizes of ḡ=1.24 and ḡ=1.49 for healthy individuals and patients, respectively. The average effect sizes of placebo treatment in the patient studies were ḡ=1.05 and ḡ=1.73 for clinical pain and experimentally induced pain, respectively. According to a chi-square test (p=040), large number of studies showed significant pain reduction involved patients as that of healthy participants.

Placebo analgesia have shown positive results so far, but further work is needed before these findings can be applied to patients, and they should examine a variety of pain conditions. “The significance of these findings is the major impact that our expectations have on the treatment effect — when we expect pain relief it will increase the treatment effect, and clinicians should take advantage of that,” said Forsberg.


Clinical Pain Advisor

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Original title of article:

Placebo Analgesic Effect Stronger in Patients vs Healthy Individuals


June T. Forsberg

Clinical Pain Advisor
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