Is a placebo response all in a person's mind?

Dr. Robin Miller, MD
Internal Medicine
The placebo response is not something that is just in a person’s mind. It is a powerful response that has and continues to be studied extensively. I was first introduced to the placebo effect in medical school.  One of my colleagues gave me an aspirin for my headache. He asked me how long it took to work and I told him about 10 minutes. He told me that it actually  takes 30 to 60 minutes to work. I was surprised and impressed that my headache resolved with just the act of taking the aspirin.

Studies at the University of Michigan found a similar response to those who received a pain stimulus and then given a placebo and told it would help with pain.  The brain’s pain relief system was observed to activate using a special brain scan.  

Although the placebo effect may start in the brain it is followed by physiologic responses in the rest of the body.  

Continue Learning about Alternative Medicine

5 Home Remedies Your Mom Was Actually Right About
5 Home Remedies Your Mom Was Actually Right About
Keep warm to avoid a cold or gargle with salt water to relieve a sore throat—these are just a few of the remedies your mom has suggested at one time o...
Read More
What is alternative medicine?
Alan GabyAlan Gaby
While there is no official definition of "alternative medicine," the term generally refers to variou...
More Answers
What is the sequence of progressive sweeping exercises?
National Academy of Sports MedicineNational Academy of Sports Medicine
 This is related to the practice of Pranic healing, an alternative to conventional medicine.  Pranic...
More Answers
Qigong: Ancient Moves That Heal
Qigong: Ancient Moves That Heal

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.