For years, we've heard that psychological factors may profoundly
affect the results of treatment for an illness. Consider the
stories of "miracle cures" by terminal cancer patients
who kept their spirits up and maintained that "never
say die" attitude throughout treatment.
recent study in the journal Spine suggests that pessimistic
thinkers may have trouble recovering from low back pain. The
authors examined the relationship between patient expectations
of treatment benefits and treatment outcomes. One hundred
thirty-five patients with chronic LBP were divided into either
a massage or an acupuncture treatment group. Prior to the
study, patients rated how helpful they expected their treatment
to be on a scale from 0-10 (10 being extremely helpful). Following
10 weeks of treatment, the functional ability of each patient
was determined using a disability scale.
Participants with higher expectations for their treatment
experienced less pain in 86 % of cases, while patients with
low expectations only improved in 68 % of cases. Odds of improvement
were five times greater for the high-expectation group than
the low-expectation group after adjusting for other factors,
such as physical health, age, education, etc. Patients who
expected benefit from one treatment, as opposed to the other,
improved more from that particular treatment.
Don't let an illness or health concern get you down! As this
evidence suggests, attitude may influence your recovery as
much as the actual treatment you receive. Try to be optimistic
the next time you receive treatment for any illness, and talk
to your doctor about the best way to stay healthy and happy
for a lifetime.
- Kalauokalani D, Cherkin DC, Sherman KJ, et
al. Lessons from a trial of acupuncture and massage for low
back pain: Patient expectations and treatment effects. Spine,
July 1, 2001:26(13), pp. 1418-1424.