• Placebo Effect Dictates Therapeutic Effect Of Headache Medication

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    Placebo Effect is now widely recognized that, while largely ineffective in improving objective symptoms (like high blood pressure or an infection, for instance), placebos are genuinely effective in treating subjective, self-reported symptoms, including all sorts of pain. Placebos can take all sorts of forms: inert sugar pills, sham surgeries and saline injections.

    By Dr. Mercola

    According to a recent Google query analysis, the 2008 recession took a great toll on Americans’ health. Ulcers and headaches topped the charts in terms of ailments people sought advice on.

    Interestingly, the rise in such stress-related health problems has turned out to be enduring. According to the lead author:

    “By the end of the great recession in 2011, queries were still substantially higher than before the recession. People were not getting better with the economy. People were potentially much sicker.”

    Migraine headache—which is a more severe form of head pain—is actually one of the most common health conditions in the world, regardless of the economic climate.

    It’s more prevalent than diabetes, epilepsy and asthma combined. It’s also one of the top 20 causes of disability among adults. An estimated 26 million Americans suffer with migraines, and approximately 80 percent of them are women.

    Economic Woes Fuel Ulcers and Headaches

    The first featured study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, analyzed the number of Google queries for each of the top 100 health-related search terms made between December 2008 and December 2011. They then compared this to the number of queries for each search term made prior to the recession.

    Compared to pre-recession data, certain ailments skyrocketed during the years of the recession. Stomach ulcers rose 228 percent (1.48 million extra queries), followed by headache symptoms, which rose by 193 percent (1.52 million extra queries). According to the study:

    “Google queries indicate that the Great Recession coincided with substantial increases in health concerns, hinting at how population health specifically changed during that time… Among just the top 100, there were roughly 205 million excess health concern queries during the Great Recession.”

    Headaches Come in Many Forms

    Naturally, there’s a wide range of headaches. Compared to other types of headaches, migraines are still in the minority. Headaches, in general, may result from chemical, environmental, emotional, or physical sources, and/or any combination thereof.

    They could be caused by anything from food allergies and sensitivity to scents or perfume, to emotional stress and jaw clenching, hormonal fluctuations, or a shortage of blood or oxygen to your head caused by poor posture.

    In the latter case, visiting a chiropractor and learning proper posture techniques could help resolve recurring headaches. If your headache stems from tight muscles, myofascial release may be part of the answer. Electrosensitivity could also be part of the problem, so take note of where you are and what gadgets are nearby when symptoms strike.

    A migraine headache is characterized by intense throbbing or pulsing, typically in one area or side of your head, and is commonly accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound.

    Due to its profoundly debilitating nature, this may be one instance where you could justify popping a pill for instant relief. Unfortunately, migraine medications have a particularly poor efficacy rate. Most migraine drugs tend to work only 50 percent of the time, in 50 percent of people… They can also cause severe side effects.

    Interestingly, another recent study found that expectation appears to play a very important role in how you respond to migraine treatment. And, if the placebo effect is instrumental in alleviating serious migraine pain, it stands to reason that treatment for less severe forms of headache might be influenced in the same manner.

    Even though they do not act on the disease, placebos seem to affect how people feel (this happens in up to 1 out of 3 patients). A change in a person’s symptoms as a result of getting a placebo is called the placebo effect. Usually the term “placebo effect” speaks to the helpful effects a placebo has in relieving symptoms. This effect usually lasts only a short time. It’s thought to have something to do with the body’s chemical ability to briefly relieve pain or certain other symptoms. But sometimes the effect goes the other way, and causes unpleasant symptoms or worse. These may include headaches, nervousness, nausea, or constipation, to name a few of the possible “side effects.” The unpleasant effects that happen after getting a placebo are sometimes called the nocebo effect.


    Staff Writer

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