Expect relief and you will get it

Expectation of relief can enhance pain relief, according to a new study published in The Journal of Pain by Canadian researchers. This is not a new discovery, but provides additional confirmation of this important clinical observation. The current study was performed in 60 healthy volunteers, 15 of whom expected relief of experimental pain, 15 expected worsening of pain from the procedure, 15 had no expectations, and 15 were in a control group. Pain was induced by electrical stimulation of right leg, while applying an ice pack to the left arm (counterstimulation) was tested as a treatment to reduce pain in the leg. Those who were told that the pain will worsen from the ice pack in fact felt more pain, while those who were expecting relief, experienced less pain. A study published in 2009 by Harvard researchers showed that expectation of relief from acupuncture also translated into stronger relief experienced by volunteers subjected to experimental pain. Their clinical observation was confirmed by functional MRI scans showing stronger activation of pain relieving structures in the brain. The researchers concluded that while acupuncture provides pain relief by sending blocking messages up to the central nervous system, messages regulating pain perception from the brain down can affect pain perception depending on person’s expectations.
This suggests that having a positive expectation when seeing doctors and undergoing various treatments may improve the outcome of these treatments.


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