The connection between mind and body is becoming increasingly clear.
Research tells us that our expectations of treatment success can influence our health outcomes. In one recent study, more than 2,000 patients who were treated in pain centers were asked before treatment about their expectations regarding pain relief, and improved quality of life after their treatment (Cormier, et al., 2016). A follow up was then conducted six months later to measure their pain intensity, depressive symptoms and satisfaction with pain treatment. The results show that there was a positive relationship between the patients’ expectations and the clinical outcomes. In other words, better clinical outcomes were seen in individuals who expected positive outcomes from the treatment.
According to Dr. Moseley (2015) there may be several explanations for this predictive relationship. For example, it is possible that treatment success is related to the body’s own internal relief mechanism, endogenous opioid production.
This is also associated with the placebo effect. If someone tells us the treatment or pill works and we expect to get better, then we are more likely to get better.
However, there are probably multiple factors at play when it comes to your expectations and treatment success. For example, if you expect a treatment to work, then you may be more likely to adhere to a treatment plan, expecting that a positive outcome will follow. It is also possible that if you are expecting to get better, you may be more likely to ignore the inevitable steps backward on the way to recovery and then give a more positive report when asked about your treatment progress.
This is a relatively new area of research and many questions still need to be answered. However, early results show the importance of believing in your treatment plan early in the process for the best outcome.
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Dr. Tracy Davenport is a health writer, advocate and entrepreneur who has been helping individuals live their best life. She is co-author of Making Life Better for a Baby with Acid Reflux. Follow Tracy’s love of smoothies on Twitter.