When the Placebo Effect comes up in these discussions, somebody usually says, “If it works, who cares?”
The reason this is not an adequate response to the problem is that the placebo effect is not an effect on the disease – it’s an effect on observable symptoms. If you believe that magnets make the pain go away, and it therefore works, whatever caused the pain has still not gone away. It’s just easier to ignore.
I have a bad back that responds to little- I’ve never had a “placebo effect” pain relief before, no matter the drug or therapy. I am going to try the magnets (can’t hurt) and let you know. Since I have a genuine chronic pain problem, it should be pretty easy to see if it helps or not.
I’ll post my results here, for anyone who’s interested…
As a side note, by MIL, who has TERRIBLE crippling arthritis has been wearing a magnetic bracelet, and she says it’s really helping her a lot. I doubt she would have placebo effect relief, as her pain is very bad and very chronic. If she could have wished it away, she would have- long ago. You can actually see that the muscles are relaxing in her hand, and her fingers are really straightening out for her.
I’m very lucky. The only time I was ever up shit creek, I just happened to have a paddle with me.
Ah, but which is more important, the symptom or the disease? Having been both patient & physician, I can say it depends where you’re sitting.
Given that a competent health professional has done a reasonable evaluation of a painful joint to rule out broken bones, serious inflammation, which would get worse with continued movement, or torn ligaments which would make the joint unstable, the best treatment is using the joint. But this hurts, so people walk around with their neck crooked, or limp, or use a wrist brace (allowing muscles to atrophy) instead of relaxing the muscles and allowing the body to heal itself. Get rid of the pain & you get rid of the underlying problem.
There is a lot about the body that we know about that is proven in accordance with accepted scientific methods. There is a lot that is not known. I’ve yet to hear of a magnetic bracelet or back pad causing a life-threatening hemorrhage from an ulcer, which can and does happen with regularity from conventional “scientifically proven” therapies like Motrin.
Of course, since magnets have no measurable effect at all, it can’t possibly be a harmful one. Now if it were the case that the alleviation of pain was in itself sufficient to affect the alleviation of the condition causing the pain, then that itself would be measurable and would provide evidence in support of the therapy. But that evidence has not arisen.
Yes, zette, please let me know how it works out for you – post here or reply by e-mail.
I found a bunch of magnets in a mail order catalogue (and cheap too) that you can fit to any part of your body and I’m going to try them. Thanks for all the input guys.
I’m no computer expert either. What will the magnets do? I know that they are not strong magnets at all, and the keyboard is approximately 2 feet from the computer itself.
And the only floppy disks we have are old & never used, and stored in another room. Really. The CD’s we have are also kept away from the computer, where my 2 year old can’t get at them. Will these magnets do any damage to CD’s?
Tracer has already noted the main problem with claiming the placebo effect could not be present in an animal.
But I found the part of the book I was referring to, and wanted to relate it. It is The Undiscovered Mind, by John Horgan. It actually is more of the “nocebo” effect, the flip-side of the placebo effect, in which negative (rather than positive) expectations become self-fulfilling:
“The psychologist Robert Ader of the University of Rochester gave rats saccharine-flavored water containing cyclophosphamide, a compound that causes nausea and severely suppresses the immune system. All the rats became sick, and many died. Ader then gave the survivors saccharine-sweetened water containing no cyclophosphamide. These rats, conditioned by their previous exposure, became sick as well, and some even died. The sweet-tasting water alone was enough to suppress their immune systems fatally.” (p. 88)
It's has been mentioned that cults would put magnets under the pillows of the followers. Supposedly, the magnets would reprogram or rewire the brain's connections, braking down their defense mechanism.
I don't think that wearing magnets around you wrist would do anything to one's psyche.
just some food for thought there.
My opinion, Try laughter.
A friend of the late Allen Funt, Norman Cousins was prognossed with Collagen diease - the connective tissues in the spine and joints disintegrate. He had a 500 to 1 chance of recovery. anyway, Allen gave Norman the funniest clips from his show; Candid Camera. Norman would surround himself with humor. Before going to bed, he would watch the clips. the laughing would release endorphins. Giving him two hous of painless sleep.
time marched on, and in three weeks he was on the road to recovery, and made a full recovery (sorry for the reduency).
In fact, you know what? A while back, I was having problems with my left knee from too much bike riding. Then, I rested it for a few days and it felt better, but afterwords I realized that right before it felt better, I had been listening to Chopin Nocturns each evening.
Now, before that I had not even considered that maybe the Chopin music was the reason for my improved condition. Then, I thought MAYBE it had something to do with it. I still don’t know, but the improvement over just a few days (of an injury I’d had for months) was so dramatic, that I’m going to try the same music on headaches. Can’t hurt - might help.
Ok, you might sense I’m not being completely serious here. But my point is that you have to be careful with this sort of thinking, because at best it’s harmless, but at worst it leads people to do things which are actively harmful (either financially or medically), or substitute placebos for needed medical care for serious problems. People look at other people’s placebos and say, “oh, that’s silly, I’d never fall for that”, but then they do the very same thing in different ways.
There’s no known causal mechanism for magnets to improve health in that way, and current physics understands magnetism pretty darned well. And there are no double blind medical studies showing they have such an effect, either, although it has been looked for. It seems reasonable to conclude they don’t. Magnets will be harmless, and free… but be careful of how far you go with this sort of thing.
The Washington Post printed that article? I’m impressed. Usually mass-media news articles about science are so dumbed down as to be completely worthless. This one actually seemed to be an exception - even mentioned the units for magnetic flux density. Good article!
Excerpted from said article, a quote by someone trying to heal himself with magnets:
It’s really amazing how many people think like this, even amoung reasonably educated people. There’s certainly no shortage of scientific illiteracy about, is there?