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Documentary Investigates the Placebo Effect on Back Pain

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Could relief for chronic back pain be as easy as taking a sugar pill? In the BBC documentary, “The Placebo Experiment: Can My Brain Cure My Body?” Dr. Michael Mosley sets out to investigate the power of the placebo effect.

Several studies have demonstrated complaints of lower back pain have risen dramatically in recent decades. Ranking 12th as a cause of disability in 1990,1 it’s now the leading cause of disability in nearly all high-income countries.2,3 As many as 8 in 10 adults will experience low back pain at some time in their life.4

Unfortunately, while the problem is fairly common worldwide, so is the mistreatment of the condition.5 In the U.S., more than 60 percent of people who see their physician for lower back pain are prescribed an opioid painkiller. This despite guidelines from the American College of Physicians which state prescription drugs should be used as a last resort.6

A series of papers published in The Lancet7 has highlighted the extent to which this mistreatment is contributing not only to further pain but also to opioid addiction. Considering the enormous risks of opioid treatment, it’s really important to keep our minds open to safer alternatives, provided they’re of any use.

The Power of Your Mind

To find out if fake pills and the power of your mind might be capable of providing effective pain relief, Mosley devised a novel experiment involving 100 patients, many of whom have spent years struggling with chronic back pain. Mosley and his team went to great lengths to create the impression that the patients were participating in a study of a brand-new and exceptionally effective pain drug.

Everything from the size, color and dosage of the pills and the label on the bottle, to the clinical environment and doctor-patient interface was based on previous placebo research. And, while the participants are told they will be randomly assigned to receive either the drug or a placebo, in reality, they’re all getting the placebo — a white and blue pill that contains nothing but rice powder.

At the same time, they also evaluated the potential benefits of simply having more time with an empathic doctor. So, while one group receives a standard consultation lasting no more than nine minutes and 22 seconds, which is the average consultation time for a general practitioner, the other group gets up to 30 minutes with the doctor. The experiment lasted for three weeks.

What did they find? As of Day 2 and 3, results were disappointing. None of the patients, all of whom were asked to keep a video diary log of how they felt each day, reported any kind of pain relief. However, by Week 2, many suddenly began reporting significant — and in some cases complete — pain relief.

Is the Placebo Effect Real?

Many are still under the mistaken impression that the placebo effect is somehow a “lie;” some kind of trick. However, modern research tools such as MRI scans reveal the effect is most definitely real, as it creates measurable changes in your brain.

For example, in trials involving placebos for pain relief, the participants’ brains release natural opioids that provide opioid-mediated pain control. So, the placebo effect is tapping into the same pain control centers as opioid drugs. Placebo trials on patients with Parkinson’s disease have revealed even this serious condition can be ameliorated with a dummy pill.

Lack of dopamine is one of the factors producing the symptoms of Parkinson’s, and brain scans show that when Parkinson’s patients are told they’re receiving an active medication, the dopamine levels in their brains increase, even when there’s no active ingredient in the pill. In fact, a placebo can release as much dopamine as amphetamines in a person with a healthy dopamine system.

Perhaps even more remarkable, studies have shown the placebo effect is at work in animals too. Rats have been found to experience placebo-induced pain relief,8,9 for example.

To demonstrate this, rats were injected with morphine two times, which preconditioned them to expect pain relief in conjunction with an injection. Then, when the morphine was traded for saline, as many as 40 percent of the rats responded with signs of pain relief, as if they’d been given morphine.

They’ve also found that when a placebo procedure is stressful or painful, such as an injection, it will impact the animal’s response.10 Hence, whenever stressful procedures are part of the study design, a control group of completely untreated animals should be included, in addition to the group getting the actual drug injected, and the group getting a placebo injection.

Epileptic dogs have also been shown to respond to placebo, actually experiencing a decrease in seizure frequency in response to sham drugs.11

Placebo Effect Also Plays a Big Role in the Effectiveness of Conventional Drugs

Some studies into the placebo effect have concluded that even many conventional treatments work because of the placebo effect. In one such study, the placebo effect was found to account for more than 50 percent of the therapeutic value of the migraine drug Maxalt.12 Lead author Ted Kaptchuk, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, explained:13

“This study untangled and reassembled the clinical effects of placebo and medication in a unique manner. Very few, if any, experiments have compared the effectiveness of medication under different degrees of information in a naturally recurring disease.

Our discovery showing that subjects’ reports of pain were nearly identical when they were told that an active drug was a placebo as when they were told that a placebo was an active drug demonstrates that the placebo effect is an unacknowledged partner for powerful medications.”

The Power of Expectations

Your expectation plays a significant role in the placebo effect, research14 shows. These expectations are influenced by medical rituals such as being forced to wait in a waiting room, being greeted by a doctor wearing a white lab coat and so on.

The words and body language your doctor uses also influence your expectations. Telling the patient that the treatment will relieve their symptoms produces a greater placebo effect than saying it “might” help. Other factors that influence a patient’s expectations include the size, color and price of the medication. For example:15,16

  • Capsules are more effective than tablets
  • Large capsules are more effective than small capsules
  • Expensive medications are more effective than inexpensive ones17
  • Red pills tend to be energizing while blue pills tend to be best for treating pain
  • Sham injections and sham acupuncture (which also uses needles) are more effective than placebo pills

In short, the placebo effect relies on your body’s own chemicals, released in response to or in accordance with your mental or emotional expectations or beliefs.

Research18 has also shown that your emotions and/or expectations can significantly influence the perceived intensity of pain. Positive expectations and emotions tend to minimize pain, while negative emotions such as fear tend to exacerbate it. This is an aspect of pain that has been exploited by torturers throughout human history.

Placebo Knee Surgery Just as Effective as Real Surgery

The placebo effect comes into play not only when you’re taking a pill but also during surgical procedures. One of the most dramatic examples of this was a knee surgery study19 published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2002. 

Not only does this double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicenter trial definitively prove the power of your mind in healing, it also reveals that most knee surgery for osteoarthritis is a waste of money.

The results of this study show the improvement people report after surgery is almost entirely due to the placebo effect. As noted by the authors, “In this controlled trial involving patients with osteoarthritis of the knee, the outcomes after arthroscopic lavage or arthroscopic débridement were no better than those after a placebo procedure.”

A similar study20 published in 2013 also concluded that arthroscopic knee surgery for degenerative meniscal tears had no more benefit than sham surgery. This is a significant concession, as arthroscopic surgery on the meniscus is the most common orthopedic procedure in the U.S.

Here, they even excluded people with knee arthritis, as they tend not to benefit as much from meniscus surgery anyway, and the researchers wanted to ascertain if the surgery helps under “ideal circumstances.”

These kinds of findings are well worth considering when weighing your treatment options. Remembering that your mind is the primary healer may help you find safer and less costly alternatives.

Placebo Surgery for Fractured Spines

A more extreme example involves sham back surgery. Vertebroplasty is a procedure in which a fractured spine is repaired by injecting surgical cement into the bone. However, one doctor became aware of a strange anomaly. Some patients, who for whatever reason received treatment on the wrong vertebrae, still received pain relief. So, he decided to undertake a placebo trial.

Some patients received the real procedure, and others received sham surgery. A total of 130 patients were included in this study. When the results were tallied, there was no statistical difference in the degree of pain relief between the real and the sham surgeries.

Even more importantly, there was no statistical difference in the improvement of physical function between the two. More than 1 million Americans have received vertebroplasty over the past couple of decades, yet it is no better than placebo!

“The Placebo Experiment” presents evidence from yet another sham surgery experiment. In 2012, Oxford University researchers investigated the effectiveness of acromioplasty, i.e., rotator cuff surgery, in which a small bone spur is removed from the shoulder.

In this trial, patients were randomly assigned to receive either real surgery or sham surgery in which an incision was made and then simply sewed back up without removing any of the bone. Here, again, the researchers found no difference between the real and the fake surgery. Both patient groups experienced the same rate of physical improvement and pain relief.

Can Placebo Effect be Used to Heal a Broken Heart?

In a second experiment, Mosley and his team set about to investigate whether the placebo effect might be used to help people recover after a relationship breakup. Heartbreak, he says, is essentially a form of depression, and if the placebo effect can help people recover from a broken heart, placebos could potentially benefit other types of depression as well.

Participants are first asked to view a photo of someone they feel very positively about. Next, they’re shown a photo of their ex. The participants rate how they feel about each on a scale of 1 through 5. They’re then given a nasal spray said to contain an analgesic designed to ease emotional pain. In reality, it’s just saltwater.

The same set of images are again shown, and in many cases, the participants were in fact feeling better about the partner who broke their heart. Some said they felt mildly happy.

This isn’t the first time the placebo effect has been shown to play a significant role in depression treatment. In fact, studies21,22 have repeatedly shown placebos are as effective as antidepressants in people with mild to moderate depression. Considering the long list of side effects associated with antidepressants, including worsening depression, it seems reasonable to conclude that a placebo would be a far preferable option to the real thing.

Placebo Can Work Even When You Know You’re Taking a Fake Pill

Ted Kaptchuk, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, is one of the leading researchers on the placebo effect. Normally, the placebo effect is studied by giving half of the test subjects the real treatment while the other gets a dummy pill, but neither of the groups is aware of what they’re getting.

Kaptchuk was curious what might happen if people knew they were receiving a placebo right from the start. So, in 2009, he launched the first open-label placebo trial,23 enrolling people diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Curiously, compared to those who received no treatment, nearly twice as many in the placebo group — all of whom knew they were taking a dummy pill — reported adequate symptom relief. 

Overall, nearly 60 percent of the patients given a placebo pill (and, again, told they were receiving a placebo) reported adequate relief from IBS symptoms, compared to just 35 percent of those who received no treatment. Even more remarkable, the placebo group actually improved to a degree equal to that of two commonly prescribed IBS medications.

Harnessing the Healing Power of Placebo

At the three-week mark, 45 percent of the participants report feeling significant improvement. At this point, Mosley also reveals the truth: They’ve all been taking a placebo; there was no actual drug involved. All of these patients had previously been on powerful painkillers, yet simple rice powder capsules were now able to relieve their back pain.

The data also showed that of those whose medical appointment was of standard length, maxing out at nine minutes and 22 seconds, 38 percent reported significant improvement in pain. In the group who got up to half an hour with the physician, 51 percent significantly improved.

A final test remained though. Would they continue getting pain relief now that they knew they were taking a placebo? At the final follow-up at the end of Week 4, 70 percent of those who reported improvement at Week 3 and continued taking the pills did in fact continue to benefit — even though they knew they were taking a placebo.

This just goes to show that if you think you will benefit from a treatment, there’s a good chance you will, and this is all due to the placebo effect — whether the treatment consists of a “real” drug (or surgery) or not.

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Bill Gates: Third Shot May Be Needed to Combat Coronavirus Variants

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With more than 40 million Americans having received at least the first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, a third dose may be needed to prevent the spread of new variants of the disease, Bill Gates told CBS News Tuesday.

Gates’ comments come amid growing concern that the current vaccines are not effective against the more contagious Brazilian and South African variants.

Pfizer and Moderna have stated that their vaccines are 95% and 99% effective, respectively, against the initial strain of COVID. However, some scientists have questioned those statements. Additionally, the World Health Organization and vaccine companies have conceded that the vaccines do not prevent people from being infected with COVID or from transmitting it, but are only effective at reducing symptoms.

Gates told CBS Evening News:

“The discussion now is do we just need to get a super high coverage of the current vaccine, or do we need a third dose that’s just the same, or do we need a modified vaccine?”

U.S. vaccine companies are looking at making modifications, which Gates refers to as “tuning.”

People who have had two shots may need to get a third shot and people who have not yet been vaccinated would need the modified vaccine, explained Gates. When asked whether the coronavirus vaccine would be similar to the flu vaccine, which requires yearly boosters, Gates couldn’t rule that out. Until the virus is eradicated from all humans, Gates said, additional shots may be needed in the future.

AstraZeneca in particular has a challenge with the variant,” Gates explained. “And the other two, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax, are slightly less effective, but still effective enough that we absolutely should get them out as fast as we can while we study this idea of tuning the vaccine.”

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is funding the studies being conducted in Brazil and South Africa, CBS News said. The foundation has also invested in the AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and the Novavax vaccines, which are being tested against new variants. Once the AstraZeneca vaccine is approved, the Global Alliance for Vaccine Initiative or GAVI, founded by Gates, will distribute it globally.

“Gates continues to move the goalposts,” said Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., chairman and chief legal counsel of Children’s Health Defense. “Meanwhile the strategies he and others have promoted are obliterating the global economy, demolishing the middle class, making the rich richer and censoring vaccine safety advocates, like me.”

Kennedy said that the exclusive focus on vaccines has prevented the kind of progress required to actually address and recover from the pandemic:

“From the pandemic’s outset, clear-headed people familiar with the challenges inherent in the vaccine model have understood that the path out of crisis would require multiple steps. Those steps would need to include the development and/or identification of therapeutic drugs, the sharing of information among doctors to hone improved treatment models that reduce infection mortality rates below those for flu, and the kind of broad-spectrum long-term herd immunity that protects against mutant strains and that only derives from natural infection.”

Instead, Gates and vaccine makers are proposing a lifetime of boosters, supporting insufficient testing to determine safety and failing to address the inadequate monitoring of vaccine injuries, Kennedy said.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Children’s Health Defense.

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Young nurse suffers from hemorrhage and brain swelling after second dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine

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(Natural News) A 28-year-old healthcare worker from the Swedish American Hospital, in Beloit, Wisconsin was recently admitted to the ICU just five days after receiving a second dose of Pfizer’s experimental mRNA vaccine. The previously healthy young woman was pronounced brain dead after cerebral angiography confirmed a severe hemorrhage stroke in her brain stem.

Her family members confirmed that she was “breaking out in rashes” after the vaccine. She also suffered from sudden migraine headaches, and got “sick” after taking the second dose of the vaccine. At the very end, she lost the ability to speak and went unconscious. The migraines, nausea, and loss of speech were all symptoms of a brain bleed and brain swelling, something her family did not understand at the time, and something nobody would expect after vaccination.

While on life support, neurologists used angiography to image the damage inside the brain. They found a subarachnoid hemorrhage, whereas a bulging blood vessel burst in the brain, bleeding out in the space between the brain and the tissue covering the brain. The ensuing swelling cut off oxygen to the brain and caused brain death. On February 10, 2021, Sarah reportedly had “no brain activity.” Some of the woman’s organs are now being procured, so they can be donated to other people around the world.

Doctors warn FDA about COVID vaccines causing autoimmune attacks in the heart and brain

Experimental COVID-19 vaccines may cause inflammation along the cardiovascular system, leading to heart attack and/or stroke. This serious issue was brought forth to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by Dr. J. Patrick Whelan, M.D., Ph.D. and further confirmed by cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr. Hooman Noorchashm, M.D., Ph.D. The two doctors warned that a recently-infected patient who is subject to COVID-19 vaccination is likely to suffer from autoimmune attacks along the ACE-2 receptors present in the heart, and in the microvasculature of the brain, liver and kidney. If viral antigens are present in the tissues of recipients at the time of vaccination, the vaccine-augmented immune response will turn the immune system against those tissues, causing inflammation that can lead to blood clot formation.

This severe adverse event is likely cause of death for the elderly who are vaccinated despite recently being infected. There is no adequate screening process to ensure that this autoimmune attack doesn’t occur. The elderly are not the only people vulnerable to vaccine injury and death. Pfizer’s experimental COVID-19 vaccine could be the main cause behind the sudden death of Sarah Sickles, a 28-year-old nurse from Wisconsin. The Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System has captured five permanent disabilities in Wisconsin, 58 ER visits, and eleven deaths in just one month. This is the first case in Wisconsin of someone under 44 years of age suffering from severe COVID-19 vaccine side effects and death. There are now more than 1,170 deaths recorded in the U.S. related to the experimental mRNA vaccines, a reality that the FDA and CDC continue to ignore.

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Powering hypersonic weapons: US armed forces eyeing dangerous 5G tech

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(Natural News) Much of the conversation surrounding the benefits of 5G is geared toward the consumer side of the technology. People will be able to download videos at lightning speed and will be more connected than ever, proponents claim, although there are serious questions regarding its safety. However, some of the most important 5G applications are not civil at all – the technology will be used extensively in the military domain.

Some of its military uses are outlined in the Defense Applications of 5G Network Technology report, which was published by the Defense Science Board. This federal committee gives scientific advice to the Pentagon. Their report states: “The emergence of 5G technology, now commercially available, offers the Department of Defense the opportunity to take advantage, at minimal cost, of the benefits of this system for its own operational requirements.”

The 5G commercial network that is being built by private companies right now can be used by the American military for a much lower cost than if the network had been set up exclusively for military purposes.

Military experts expect the 5G system to play a pivotal role in using hypersonic weapons. For example, it can be used for new missiles that bear nuclear warheads and travel at speeds superior to Mach 5. These hypersonic weapons, which travel at five times the speed of sound and move a mile per second, will be flying at high altitudes on unpredictable flight paths, making them as hard to guide as they will be to intercept.

Huge quantities of data need to be gathered and transmitted in a very short period in order to maneuver these warheads on variable trajectories and allow them to change direction in milliseconds to avoid interceptor missiles.

5G for defense

This type of technology is also needed to activate defenses should we be attacked by a weapon of this type; 5G automatic systems could theoretically handle decisions that humans won’t have enough time to make on their own. Military bases and even cities will have less than a minute to react to incoming hypersonic missiles, and 5G will make it easier to process real time data on trajectories for decision-making.

There are also important uses of this technology in combat. 5G’s ability to simultaneously link millions of transceivers will undoubtedly facilitate communication among military personnel and allow them to transmit photos, maps and other vital information about operations in progress at dizzying speeds to improve situational awareness.

The military can also take advantage of the high-frequency and short-wavelength millimeter wave spectrum used by 5G. Its short range means that it is well suited for smart military bases and command posts because the signal will not propagate too far, making it less likely that enemies will be able to detect it.

When it comes to special forces and secret services, the benefits of 5G are numerous. Its speed and connectivity will allow espionage systems to reach unprecedented levels of efficiency. It will also make drones more dangerous by allowing them to identify and target people using facial recognition and other methods.

Like all technology, 5G will also make us highly vulnerable. The network itself could become an attractive target for cyber-attacks and other acts of war being carried out with cutting-edge weaponry. In fact, the 5G network is already viewed as critical infrastructure and is being carefully protected before it is even fully built.

While the focus on 5G’s dangers to human health and the environment is absolutely warranted, it is also important not to lose sight of the military implications of 5G. After all, it is not just the United States that is developing this technology for military purposes; our enemies, like China and other countries, are also making great strides in this realm.

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