The C.A.M. Report
Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Fair, Balanced, and to the Point
  • About this web log

    This blog is intended as an objective and dispassionate source of information on the latest CAM research. Since my background is in pharmacy and allopathic medicine, I view all CAM as advancing through the development pipeline to eventually become integrated into mainstream medical practice. Some will succeed while others fail. But all are treated fairly here.

  • About the author

    John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.

  • Common sense considerations

    The material on this weblog is for informational purposes. It is not medical advice or counsel. Be smart, consult your health professional before using CAM.

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  • Recent Posts

  • Recent Comments

    Reduce stress. Reduce pain?

     Might reducing negative emotions explain placebo-associated pain reduction?

    And, should the stress response be included in every placebo-controlled study?

    First, the details.

    • 63 students were tested on 2 separate days.
      • One day they took capsules containing lactose, but were told the capsules contained a potent painkiller.
      • The next time, they were told the same thing, but no capsules were taken.
    • The volunteers didn’t know the treatment given — single-blinded.
    • Pain was induced by placing a thermal probe (+46°C, 115°F) on the forearm for 240 seconds.
    • Electrocardiogram (ECG) was used to measure heart rate variability.
    • Subjective measurements included pain intensity, pain unpleasantness, stress, arousal, and mood.

    And, the results.

    • There was a placebo effect on pain intensity that was accompanied by a reduction in subjective stress and heart activity.
      • These were the only factors independently associated with pain intensity.
    • Reduced subjective stress was the only predictor for the placebo analgesic response.

    The bottom line?
    The authors concluded, “Reduced negative emotional activation could be a mechanism in placebo analgesia.”

    My take is that every placebo-controlled study should include ECG monitoring in order to account for any response that might be associated with stress-reduction.

    10/3/08 20:15 JR

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