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Scientific Proof We Can Heal Ourselves

Lissa Rankin's picture

self healing

There’s a lot of “woo woo” talk out there in the land of metaphysics, the law of attraction, and mind/body medicine about our capacity for self-healing. As an open-minded physician, I’ve always been fascinated by this concept. But as a skeptical scientist at heart, I’ve always had this little voice in the back of my head that says, “Bullshit. Prove it.”

My curiosity about whether we really have the power to cure our own bodies fueled an inquiry into the medical literature, not just in the mind/body medicine journals, but in the New England Journal of Medicine and in labs from the halls of Harvard. What I found blew my mind and evolved into my next book Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof You Can Heal Yourself  (Hay House, 2013).

Since it’ll be a while before the book comes out, I’ll be giving you snippets of what’s to come here on my blog, so make sure you sign up for my RSS feed here if you want to make sure not to miss anything. (Note: Scroll down on the left hand side of this page and click on "Subscribe to Lissa Rankin's blog only.") The book is broken down into the truths of what I wasn’t taught in medical school, and what I have learned since then.

Truth #1  You can believe yourself well.

I had no clue that this was SO true until I started digging deep into the medical literature. What I found cracked me open, and I want to share some of it with you here.

Most of you have heard of the placebo effect. But do you really understand what that means? Scientific studies prove that when we take a sugar pill or undergo a sham treatment/surgery, not only do symptoms resolve, but the body actually changes physiologically.

Proof That You May Be Able To Cure Yourself

Studies show that, when given placebo pills, sham treatments, and fake surgery:

  • Bronchi dilate in asthmatics
  • Balding men grow hair
  • Ulcers heal over
  • Tumors melt away
  • Headaches resolve
  • Colitis gets better
  • Angina disappears
  • Depressed people feel happy
  • Endometriosis symptoms resolve
  • Knee pain goes away
  • Parkinson’s improves

This doesn’t happen 100% when people are treated with fake treatment, but the numbers I’m finding are pretty staggering. Placebos get people well on between 35-75%. I’ll be sharing all the percentages and scientific references to support what I'm saying in my upcoming book, but I just wanted to give you a heads up so you know how powerfully the mind can affect the body.

How does this happen? I'll be discussing the biological mechanisms scientists propose in a future blog post, so stay tuned.

Should We Be Prescribing Placebos?

What should we do with this information? Should doctors start prescribing sugar pills? Or is that too deceptive? Does that sound like quacks selling snake oil out of the back of a push cart? 

Should we prescribe placebos but tell you the truth about what we're doing? Or will that reducing the efficacy of the mind's belief that it will get well? 

Please share your thoughts, tell me your self-healing stories, and offer your opinions about how we should deal with this information. You may even wind up in my book if you're willing to go on the record and use your real name!

To learn more about my philosophy and to receive the 10 Keys to Optimal Whole Health click here.

Believing in the mind’s power to heal,


Lissa Rankin, MD: Founder of OwningPink.comPink Medicine Revolutionarymotivational speaker, and author of What’s Up Down There? Questions You’d Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend and Encaustic Art: The Complete Guide To Creating Fine Art With Wax.



Lissa Rankin's picture

Stay tuned JA

I'm so sorry you've struggled with this JA. But stay tuned. I'll soon be releasing an online help program aimed at people just like you. Make sure you're on my newsletter so you don't miss the news:

Until then, consider finding a practitioner who practices EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique). I use Kate Winch http://katewinch.com/
Be well, my dear

JA's picture


I don't think we should give more placebos and I also think if the patient knows it is a sugar pill that defeats the effect. I have Louise Hays book "Heal your body" and have been interested in the concept for years. For my own experience I have not been able to do the actual changing of the thoughts to heal the body. That is the part I am interested in. How to get the mind to believe. I have been dealing with terrible anxiety since my brother died 17 yrs ago. I felt better for a while but finally realized I just buried it with activity, emotional walls and medical pot. When I stopped the activity, pot and my emotional walls came down when I fell in love with yet another emotionally unavailable man it has just been so painful. I feel like I am trying to face the cause but have terrible emotional anxiety. An all consuming fear of death. The doc wants to put me on meds but I don't want to be on them and actually felt better for a couple weeks after the doc appt. It seems to come back when I get my period. I look forward to trying your audio series. I really don't know what else to do now.

Linda's picture


Hi Lissa,

Looking forward to your book. I've been practicing Nichiren Buddhism for nearly 30 years and have witnessed and experienced so many healings of the "incurable." Intention, expectation, determination and action are key. We are capable of so much more than we've imagined.

Thanks for all your good work.

Phil Mayfield's picture

We've got so much to learn on this

Hi Lissa
I once read a story about a hypnotherapist who was helping his patients to heal themselves. One of my favorite subjects. In one case he mistakenly helped a subject to heal from a condition, or disease, which he thought was curable. The patient recovered completely. The therapist only found out afterward that he was mistaken about the disease and that it was not curable after all. Yet the patient healed and never relapsed. They believe that was possible because the hypnotherapist actually believed that it was curable. So it was a matter of mind over matter for two minds at once.
I have always wondered if it would be possible to hypnotize hypnotists to believe that cancer, or other "incurable" diseases, were actually curable. Can a hypnotist be hypnotized to remove all doubt and truly believe in the miracle of self healing?

Suzanne's picture

Of course a Hypnotist can be Hypnotized

Hey there!
I am a Hypnotherapist. We are probably the easiest to be hypnotized because we have been in that state more than most. We understand the purpose of Hypnotherapy so to be honest I will take being hypnotized any day of the week. I had an issue recently that I needed to work on and my friend/co worker who is a Mental Health therapist and a Hypnotherapist did some work with me. Going through the 'therapy' was just not good with me. I begged for straight hypnosis, no shooter.
As per your second question about changing our beliefs, that is a personal belief thing. I for instance believe a lot of dis-ease is curable. A different co worker does not.
So as with anything, it always boils down to a person and an opinion.


Lissa Rankin's picture

Wow Bonnie

I love your story- especially this- "the intention and desire for self-discovery, self-kindness, and self-respect had to grow exponentially as I encountered levels of shame and guilt I didn't think I had.." Thank you for sharing your thoughts and bless you as you continue on your path as a healer and creator.
Much love

Bonnie K.'s picture

Tricks of the mind

Lee, Self Healing's comment struck a chord for me right now. I do happen to believe that we can heal ourselves through focus, energy, and consciousness. In fact, there was a time when, without thought or ego, I simply KNEW it.

Enter my mid-life(ish) healing crisis,which happens in my case to center around anxiety and mental/emotional issues – stored experiences, blocked emotions, etc. (These things manifest as physical illness, too; but my path seems to be to deal with them on their own level.) I have found that everything I thought I knew is challenged, as I have used all sorts of techniques (EFT, HeartMath, bodywork, energy-shifting patterns, awareness, diet modification, etc.) to clear a way through the inner muddle rising to meet me. And the sense of failure beneath all of that has astonished me.

But then, I think that's what really needed to heal. There have been times on this two-year intensive when I was throwing everything I had "at" the discord and anxiety ... when the truth was that I had to learn (still a practice) to allow whatever is there to be there, to come up on its own without my wrestling or running from it, to honor it, feel the quality of it, recognize it, so it could go. It is a reprogramming of a traumatized consciousness from the ground up, and it works. But in my case, the intention and desire for self-discovery, self-kindness, and self-respect had to grow exponentially as I encountered levels of shame and guilt I didn't think I had. Pretty profound.

At this point I am rambling – but many thanks to you Lissa, and all those here, for encouraging, sharing and holding a space for our own amazing capacity as healers and creators to shine :)

Lissa Rankin's picture

You can do it Susan!

I have faith...

And stay tuned. I will soon be launching a free training course aimed at helping people just like you who want to embark upon a self-healing journey and can't afford to hire me to work one-on-one with them.

Make sure you're on my newsletter list so you'll know when I launch the program.

Much love

Cusco's picture

The power inside

Dear Lissa!

Thanks for this great information. I always believe in the theory that we have everything we need inside of ourselves to thrive. Sure, most of us don't know how to tap that inner wisdom, but I think it's the relationship with the practitioner, even more importantly than the placebo, to promote our inner resources to move us into a state of well-being. But today it is very hard to practice with this rush life style we have.

Susan Hoefer's picture


I have come to understand that what we take time for is the "God" or spirit we honor. Just seems too many of us are honoring the dollar more than our Spirit. Many people seem not to be able to 'carve out' 10 minutes out of our schedule for what we love.

Anonymous's picture


Lissa Rankin's picture

Keep these fabulous stories coming

I'm SO loving these stories! I see them all the time in the patients I work with, but it's so heartening to know that others are finding their own way and that other practitioners are supporting the self-healing journeys of their patients.

In my opinion, the key to self healing is:
1. Believe you will get well
2. Find the right support
3. Diagnose why you're REALLY sick or suffering (this is not about blame. But often, the body is trying to send us a message.)
4. Write The Prescription: Balance all the facets of what makes you whole by healing your relationships, professional life, creative life, spiritual life, sexual life, financial life, environment, mental health, and physical health.

When you do those four steps, you've got a recipe for self-healing success.

Tell me more stories!
With love and healing juju

Daniela's picture

Hi Lissa, I am soo excited

Hi Lissa,
I am soo excited about your new book!
After one year struggling to understand what was happening to me I was diagnosed with RA a year ago.
Since then I started to educate myself, explore all kinds of possibilities and I started combining traditional medicine with "alternative medicine". I am now inflammation free and off all medications.
I am convinced my desease started with a period of big stress and the loss of a dear one. I am working in forgiving myself and loving myself. I am now also working in preventing inflammation.
So I am VERY interested in the role of the mind in chronic conditions and in particular in autoimmune deseases.
Thank you for your work!

luis R.'s picture

healing ourselves is a lot more feasible than wat we believe

i dont think we can heal ourselves ... I know for a fact we can !!!! speaking as a healer myself using no medicine wat so ever the power of intention , law of attraction , what ever it is we want to lable it as at the end of it all the great divine exist ... i love skeptics they turn into my # 1 fans ;] ... keep god in your heart and keep the mind open live life in harmony and love and watch how the healing process changes drastically for your own good ..

peace and love to all


Anonymous's picture

Our Amazing Minds! (the can conjuer both good and bad)

I'm so excited to hear you are writing about this. The mind is AMAZING! The idea of the placebo effect really hit me when I read Dr. Wayne Dyers book: Excuses Begone.

I am not sure how I feel about prescribing sugar pills because the mind can also cause our bodies to experience the side effects. Even if we were given the sugar pill that does not mean we'd be free from the side effects. Our minds can cause us to experience them, simply because we THINK they will appear.

However, I would LOVE hospitals to offer classes on re-connecting with the body and tapping into the power of the mind. Perhaps, visualization could become apart of the treatment.

What a fantastic topic! Thanks!

Lissa Rankin's picture

I believe in you Susan

Keep tapping into your inner wisdom and listening to what you know is true. And keep seeking out the support of the people your guidance knows will help you. (Gabby Bernstein is a soul sister, by the way. She and I are both speaking tomorrow together at TEDxWomen in San Francisco. I'll give her a hug for you).

Keep the faith, love

Susan's picture

Appreciating the Guidance

Thank you so much for your support and the good news conversation of self-healing on this forum. I hope I'm able to convey how much it means as it's such a stark contrast to the medical community I've been involved with in my town. I was told again a few days ago, after undergoing 4 rounds of painful epidural injections, that they didn't work and there's nothing more to be done for me. All this tells me is that the traditional practioners have run through their routine course of care. Unfortunately, it leave ME feeling like a failure, like I flunked the test I was supposed to pass to get well!

The only practioner that I have seen in the past 2-1/2 years that gave any hope of healing (and any pain relief) was a myofascial release therapist. The problem is, not only are there very few practioners like her and yourself that offer the mind-body, holistic approach, it becomes financially out of reach for the majority due to real healers not being covered by insurance. The whole insurance "racket" is another frustrating topic entirely. Why can't they embrace alternatives that could actually heal people thus costing everyone less money because people would get well?

This leads me to believe what you are proposing and what others here have confirmed, I must heal myself. I don't know why this is so difficult for me to put into practice. I know one thing I need to do is stop doing so much and let my body heal! I believe that is why the Universe put two car accidents in place within 9 months of each other: 1. to get me out of a toxic, stressful job situation and 2. to get me to stop, drop and heal my life.

As a single mother of 2, I've had trouble mastering the art of resting. I think doing that and healing my mind are the only things that will heal me now. Traditional medicine has run it's course.

I wish you could be my Doctor! In lieu of that, I will stay connected here and utilize all the information I can.

Sending much, much appreciation and lots of love to you and the others here for your words/work of wisdom and love.

Lissa Rankin's picture

Self healing and guilt

Dear Lee,
I have a whole chapter in my upcoming book about the issue of guilt/blame. I don't believe illness if anyone's "fault." As Dr. Christiane Northrup says, "We are responsibile TO our illness, not FOR our illness."

In fact, I've written a whole other blog post about this very topic, so stay tuned.

Lee's picture

Self healing

If someone believes they can self-heal, and it doesn't cure them, they bear the guilt that they "didn't do it well enough". Is it then better to have the healing force come externally from a pill or a procedure, so they can blame a failure outside themself rather than self-condemnation? Some conditions may be beyond the scope of healing, no matter what.

Lissa Rankin's picture

The Placebo Effect & Animals

Yes Jaspera, there's quite a bit of data demonstrating that animals (mostly rats in studies) respond to placebos in physiological ways. So it's not just "in your head." It's in your body.

Love your story! Thanks for sharing.
Much love

Michelle's picture

It's definitely interesting

It's definitely interesting Lissa!!!! Thank you for sharing with us all! I can't wait to read more!!

Jaspera's picture

Animals, their Treatment and the Placebo Effect

Have you looked at how animals respond to health care that involves homeopathy, naturopathy, massage therapy, reiki or healing touch, raw and natural food diets, etc.? I've found that people, including some of my closer friends, are often quite disparaging about my trying to improve my health (after a mild heart attack) with such approaches as massage therapy, reiki, reflexology, vegetarian diets, yoga and exercise, naturopathy, and other alternative or integrative methods, instead of using prescription drugs, etc. pushed by the more traditionlist doctors. "Well it's just a placebo effect", they say dismissively. Yet, apart from the fact that my health has improved in more ways than one, I've employed the same approach on my 4 old, rescued dogs, with the support of a wonderful holistic, naturopathic vet. The dogs don't know what is "real medicine or treatment" or what is placebo - they just simply respond well to the different treatments, whether massage therapy, reiki/healing touch, a change of diet from the toxic commercial stuff to good, natural food, homeopathy, accupuncture, etc. Dogs that simply might have or should have died years earlier did NOT. Right now I have a 16 year old, who was so badly abused and neglected that he was skin,bones, almost no hair, and totally miserable. Today, after 4 years of "placebo" treatment he chases balls, swims, romps with much younger dogs, and bounds in the snow. Is that a "placebo" effect or the real effect of good food, diet, hands-on treatments,and loving care? Frankly he doesn't care. He is enjoying life, and is really healthy for his age(16 or about 112 in human terms). I think it would be useful and instructive to research and consider how animals respond to such "placebo treatments".

Lissa Rankin's picture



Never thought I'd see the day :)

Lissa Rankin's picture

Own it, Fred

I know you hate that word "healer" Fred. It's a loaded word and conjures images of charlatans selling snake oil from pushcarts or Baptist preachers screaming from the pulpit.

But you are a healer, plain and simple Fred.
It's just semantics, but own it. You are.
I am too. You know it.

It's what we do. We were born to do it. And within that calling lies great power to help others.

Love you too

Fred's picture

Owning it!

I shall from this day forward own the word healer.

Lissa Rankin's picture

Fred, You're a Healer

Fred, thanks for sharing your stories.

I totally agree that the power of choice is critical. Once a person draws the line in the sand and decides to get well, any number of psychological, physiological, neurological, and spiritual mechanisms get activated, making the body and mind ripe for miracles.

But having been the lucky recipient of your healing work, I also suspect these women may have made that choice because of YOU. This is what you were talking about Susan- the healing power of the practitioner.

We can't make someone activate their own self-healing superpowers, Fred. But I believe we can facilitate the choice. My belief in my patients, your belief in yours- becomes the mirror through which the patient can see that miracles do happen. In fact, many studies show that when docs believe a patient can be cured, they're statistically more likely to be cured than if the doc is pessimistic.

So yes, they did the heavy lifting themselves. But you held the sacred space, brought love, which really is the best medicine, helped them write The Prescription (the "life cocktail") and acted as their cheerleader.

When patients have that, anything is possible.

Keep up the great work, love!

Fred's picture

That "healer" word

Thank you Lissa.

You know how I react to the word "healer," but I completely agree with you that we help facilitate a client's / patient's choice to heal. Good "healers" always create that sacred space and hold it open for their clients / patients. It's very much like holding a door open, and once it is open it becomes easy to pass through.

Much love to you Lissa.

Lissa Rankin's picture

More Thoughts

In response to the comments some of you are writing, the tweets you're sending, and the emails I'm getting, let me clarify one thing.

Because studies aren't set up to examine the placebo response, we don't know why people are getting better. But here are some reasons researchers posit to explain it (#6 is my addition- researchers don't like talking about God, but it seems an obvious one to me!):

6 Explanations For the Placebo Effect In Clinical Trials
1. Positive Belief/ Expectation/ Hope- Because of the ethics of informed consent, patients know they will be receiving either the real treatment or a placebo, but many patients in a placebo group believe they are getting the real treatment when they’re not and so they expect to get well. Expectation and belief can be self-fulfilling prophecies.

2. Classical conditioning- We all know the classic Pavlov’s dog experiment. Not only did Pavlov’s dog salivate in response to his Scooby snack. He also started salivating when he heard the bell that accompanied his Scooby snack. While salivation in response to food is an unconditioned physiological event, salivating in response to the bell is a conditioned response. In other words, the body responds to a signal from the mind, and perhaps the placebo effect works the same way. If you’re used to getting a real drug from a person in a white coat and subsequently getting better, you may then be able to trigger the body to get well by simply receiving a sugar pill from someone in a white coat.

3. Emotional support- A patient in a clinical trial receives attention and nurturing- sometimes even healing touch- often by a person in a white coat, which has historically come to represent health and healing. Someone cares how these patients are doing. Someone listens when they complain. Someone cheers when they start feeling better. We all want to feel seen and heard, and the therapeutic relationship alone can relieve symptoms.

4. Spontaneous Remission- When patients in a placebo group get better, some of them might have gotten better anyway. Many diseases, left untreated, will resolve on their own. After all, the body is a self-healing organism, constantly striving to return to homeostasis. So even if you stuck patients in a dark room, treated them with nothing, and ignored them, a certain percentage of them would likely improve. Although their study had many design flaws and was later largely discredited by scientists, Hrobjartsson & Gotzsche’s New England Journal of Medicine article “Is The Placebo Powerless?” brings up a valid argument, claiming that we can’t claim that any study demonstrates a clear placebo effect unless the study also includes a no treatment group (which most don’t). If they did, we could clearly tease out spontaneous remissions from other factors that contribute to the placebo effect.

5. Co-treatments- While most studies try to carefully screen these out, patients in clinical trials may also be surreptitiously seeking other treatments that may confound the data. If someone gets better while in a placebo group, it’s possible that the other treatment they’ve been sneaking under the table is responsible for the improvement.

6. Divine intervention- Obviously, I won’t be using any scientific studies to support this claim, but to be fair to any Higher Power who might intervene on behalf of someone in need of healing, I’ll argue that one explanation for why someone gets well when treated with a placebo is spiritual. Perhaps God (or Source or The Universe or whatever name you choose to use) waves a healing magic wand and someone is cured. I’m a deeply spiritual person who believes in many things I can’t prove, so I feel compelled to include this as a possible explanation, even though you might argue it’s not “scientific.”

Hope that helps!

Carz's picture

I wonder....

I sometimes wonder if we are taught to be sick instead of to be well. I'm not talking conspiracy theories or big pharma/doctors colluding to keep costs and their profits high.

Two (I hope) short tales:
My Mum was sick in one way or another for a lot of her life. When she was sick she had the pay off of lots of attention from her family, and lots of sympathy from the medical world. I'm not saying she wasn't sick or didn't have problems, multiple miscarriages, an acquired brain injury, COPD, and psychiatric illnesses would show that she most certainly was. But at those times when her worth wasn't measured by how much attention she got at home she was really well. She worked outside the home, gained new friends and interests. But as she got sicker and those things disappeared and she got sicker and sicker and demanded the attention of her family and doctors.

When I was in my early 20s I suffered quite badly from asthma. I had a couple of attacks that were so bad that I nearly died. The stress about it all was unbelievable. And the more I stressed the worse it got. One day I decided I was done with "the whole asthma" thing. I stopped taking my meds (Yeah, I look back now and see the danger in that), stopped every thought from being about my breathing (eg, was I wheezing, was I breathing too fast, etc, etc). At 41 I haven't had an asthma attack since.

Now I know neither of these are scientific proof that self-healing is possible but I think they help show that attitude can have a lot to do with health.

Suzanne's picture

It's in the Decision

When I was young my dad smoked. One day he quit as my mother continued to smoke. I asked him years later, knowing the so called stats and psychology on smoking, how was he able to quit so easily.
He told me It was a decision as he pointed to his head.
Over the years I found this to be true, in my own life and doing my own research. I have talked to smokers, people who have lost weight and not gained it back or if they gained, they never went beyond a certain weight.
It seems this is what you did. You had enough. You made a decision. You are healed. I commend you.
The power of the brain is a wonderful thing.

Lissa Rankin's picture

I completely agree Susan

In my book, I have two whole chapters about the power of the therapeutic relationship and all the scientific data that shows that love heals. So no- it's not just the pill or saline injection or sham surgery.

It's how it's delivered.

But is there some way we can help people facilitate the physiologic mechanisms the combo of sugar pill and kind doctor in a white coat trigger?

Ah...there's the real question.
Thoughts anyone?

Fred's picture

The power of choice

Dear Lissa - I love this post and the direction you are going. I can share two short stories from my own practice. One client, Melissa (not her real name), was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Over the course of a year, I worked with her by introducing bodywork, energy work (Reiki and Cranial Sacral), as well as meditation into her daily routine. She responded to the work we did together almost immediately. In fact, after her second session, her sister called me on the phone and asked, "what did you do to my sister?" Not sure how to respond, I asked, "what do you mean?" And she replied by saying that her sister was no longer experiencing the highs and lows that had plagued her for most of her life.

Another client, Tara (also not her real name) came to me suffering from acute fibromyalgia. She was taking large amounts of pain medication and this impacted her performance at work as well as in her family life. Over the course of about 15 months, we introduced regular bodywork and massage, meditation, yoga and other exercise, as well as introducing foods that reduced inflammation. In the end, she was able to completely wean herself off of medication.

I think there are two things that happened here. 1)I worked with each of these clients in a coaching capacity and helped them put together what I call their personal "life cocktail;" the ingredients of bodywork, diet, exercise and so on. Together we found the combination of things that helped them manage their pain and promote healing and wellness. 2)Each client wanted to change. In our first session together, each of these women said to me, "I know longer want to live this way." And I think the power of making that decision had a profound impact on their own healing. As you mention in your post, their illness or condition no longer served them and they made a powerful choice to get better.

I do not know if their healing had anything to do with the things we worked on together of the year or so that I saw each of these women. But, I can be certain that these women got better because they made a choice that they no longer wanted to live life the way in which they had been living it. The recognized the power of their own choice and acted upon it.

I've had many other similar experiences with clients over the course of my practice and I've seen transformational change occur in many of them. But, there is nothing that I can do, if the client / patient does not exercise the force of their own will to bring about their own healing. Personal choice is indeed, very powerful.


Lissa Rankin's picture

Dr. Cunningham's work

Thank you for pointing this out, Susan. I'm actually writing the chapter about how mental health affects physical health right now, so you have perfect timing!
So appreciate it.

Lissa Rankin's picture

Thank you Anonymous dog-walker

What a GREAT story!

Yeah, the word "placebo" (to please or pacify) gets a bad rap.

In my book I'm calling it the "self-healing effect." Who cares HOW it works- only that it does!

Congrats to you. Keep up the great healing journey.

Anonymous's picture

listen to your inner voice

5 years ago i was destined for cervical and lumbar surgeries because of injuries sustained in an accident. i was a mess, begging for anything to "cure" me unable to walk, bend, sleep, hold a book, type, hold a phone to my ear... the surgeries to "fix" me scared me to one thought - i want to hold grandchildren, walk my dogs, turn my head from side to side and participate in my 3 children's lives as well as finish raising - if there is such a thing - my teenage daughter.
into the therapy pool i went 5 days a week with the help of a slew of prescriptions and injections - none by the way that left me unable to feel pain as somehow despite what the doctors told me and prescribed for me i felt in my heart/head that i needed to feel my body working even if painful to know what to do and not to do ...
all palliative therapies.

then the kicker: the drs said "this is as good as you are going to get, you are getting older too you know"!

so i switched to a vegan diet, eliminated all inflammatory foods, found a naturopath dr to keep an eye on my blood work and nutrition, experienced the loss of a senior dog passing ( this gave me permission to have an outlet of grief - which allowed me to unstuff emotions), my sons rescued a temperment flunked border collie and gave him to me. yikes?! i had only gotten to strolling status with my senior dog and now i had to walk and walk and train and train ... my boys said - just save his life nurse him back to health and if you can't handle him we can re-home him! they TRICKED me - PLACEBO EFFECT ? i think so because:

now i can watercolor, fully exercise an energetic dog, deal with the way my body feels and have had great validation from my NEW physicians: neuro. and ortho who told me that my decision to NOT have surgery was the best decision i will ever make in my life. plus i am 5 years older - over 50 and no surgeries.

PLACEBO effect can come in different forms is my personal experience. for me facing fears, and the things in life that touch my heart: loss, gifts, and a purpose of caring gave me a drive to find a way to accept, just be, release, live and give.

may all find the path of best health mind body and soul. blessings, j

Susan's picture

I soooo want to have this

I soooo want to have this same experience! Similarly, I have been in 2 car accidents causing herniated cervical discs and lumbar disc issues. I had a cervical fusion w/plating in June 2010 and am having epidural injections in my lumbar spine currently. I have been through many hours of physical therapy in the last 2-1/2 years. In December 2010 the therapist told me they couldn't do any more for me and that I should consider this my "new normal". I refused to accept that "sentence" and began seeing a myo-fascial release therapist. I worked with her for 8 months this year (she said it would take a long while but she felt I would recover --she was the first person to agree with me on that and I was so grateful!)I can't see her right now due to lack of funds, she doesn't take insurance. She taught me a new diet, to reduce inflamation, and now that I have been out of therapy with her for a few months, I can see how much her treatment was helping.

I am also working on the mind aspect of myself. Became involved in the work of Gabrielle Bernstein this September and it's been life changing. Working on releasing old "stuff", turning to my inner guidance and away from fear/ego and meditating. I'm in the middle of that figurative birth canal Lissa talks about. I am so ready to be done with this "neck and back" thing and get on with a new life as others have described here. I guess I just have to keep making baby steps forward, believe in healing and have faith. One thing I'm certain of...pain and painkillers are NOT going to be my new normal!

Anonymous's picture

so will have it all

i forgot to mention hypnosis and some good stuff is available on line as well as spiritual acceptance. once i gave up having others FIX me back to how i was, i realized that was then, this is now - (of course after i allowed myself to grieve deeply)

accepting a new reality - being in the moment - loving that my body talks to me so i know when to rest - being kind to myself - saying no to others and yes to myself is the new normal (forced upon me if you will) and is behavior that i NEVER would have tried let alone stuck with before the injuries MADE me.

lisa wrote about the reasons of illness and placebos do cure. i was that woman that needed a rest. proclaiming to be like donald trump needing only 4 hours of sleep a night, raising 3 children alone with 3 jobs when needed then finding the career, marrying again to increase the kids to 7 ! sports for everyone, me coaching, going to all, hosting every holiday, increasing my income 3 fold ... ugh what a life but i thought wow i could do more blindfolded with both hands tied behind my back.

then, God gave me a Holiday and a Dog too? 5 years on my recovery ( each of those 5 years i was impatient/expecting/pushing) now:

i RESET my new normal to what makes sense to my body and finally realized this matched what is in my heart. previously, i wouldn't allow time or attention to care for myself. now i have NO career, no titles, no money, no home BUT, i am staying at a family home and able to see the elders in my family for the first time in 35 years i am here not to visit due to someone being in the hospital or for a funeral.

no rush, just being . life events have no time stamp.

blessings come wrapped up like we never imagine. i know this homeless part was meant to bring me - the one in the family who did and had it all - HOME. the healing continues.

now the most recent experience - a vegan with mostly raw diet (nothing processed) and have far more energy than ever - and no pots to wash, haha- which always flares up my neck. i manage my pain now instead of giving in to it.

i don't "fight" it , rather i "love" myself into making choices that are good for me - my posture is easy to work on cuz a bouncy ball guru lady said to "lead with your heart" do that and the spine feels the love! Archibald ealopla

Susan's picture

Thank You

Thank you for sharing your experiences. Just wanted to let you know that it's been helpful for me to read about a situation that is so similar to mine and that you've had a successful outcome. I'm going to put what you've shared into practice and am looking forward to healing myself.

Best wishes to you for continued good health and happy life!

Susan Hoefer's picture

Healing Research

Hi Lissa,
Thank you for your ongoing inspiration. I feel akin to your cause and your blogs give me courage to speak a similar message in healthcare:)

When it comes to understanding "Healing" and strategies to get your mind and body communicating, and the benefits of healing work ..Holistic Nursing will provide you with a wealth of research .

Psychoneuroimunology provides the best insight into the biological pathways of how the mind and body communicate,

and you have to check out the best (of very few available) research by Allistar Cunningham Phd. He was able to isolate, the major areas of a person's psychology (I think there were 4) that, if changed, showed statistically significant improvements in survival rates of persons with advanced cancer. Check out his "research" area on his website http://www.healingjourney.ca/research.htm Susan Hoefer RN

Lissa Rankin's picture

The Subtle Body

I haven't read that book Vanthia. I'll have to check it out! Thanks for suggesting it.
Much love

Vanthia's picture

what this reminds me of is an

what this reminds me of is an interesting book I found in the metaphysical section of the bookstore (I do love that section, but you have to browse through one at a time... there's a lot of stuff I'm not interested in that section as well but if you carefully browse you can find real gems <3 ).. that is on a related topic and you might be interested to check out if you haven't already.

it's called The Subtle Body, An Encyclopedia of Your Energetic Anatomy. it's written very much like a medical book or textbook... and deals w/ energy issues in the body, scientific study of them (it combines a lot of info that hadn't been looked at together before is my understanding) and goes over all different types of energy work and how they relate to your health and healing.. and includes info about the chakras, acupuncture (which I really want to try, since my book from the endometriosis association relates many stories from women w/ severe endometriosis like myself who have had a lot of luck w/ acupuncture in managing their pain), reflexology, intentional healing, energy fields, and more. particularly the intentional healing part sounded like it fit right in w/ this article.

...I got the book because I've been chronically ill w/ endo for a long time now, and have had some doctors who work closely w/ more alternative methods of treatment and have tried or recommended trying a little energy work w/ me on my issues, and I figured anything could contribute and I should be open to reasonable ideas from all directions given the frustration I'm having dealing w/ my traditional medical treatment which is not proving to be sufficient for dealing w/ my problems. I haven't finished it yet (not even close) but it's been really interesting to me so far.

...I have absolutely no affiliation w/ anyone from the book or anything, but since it was a related topic figured I'd mention it in case it sounded like something you wanted to try looking at! ^_^

Lissa Rankin's picture

Dr David Hamilton

Not only have I heard of David, I met him in person at Louise Hay's birthday party in September! Great guy. I haven't read his work yet, but it's on my list.

Thanks HappinessVirus

Dr. Susan Bernstein's picture

It's the relationship that heals

Hi Lissa,

Great question your asking, and knowing a lot about the placebo effect from my own research, my thought is that placebos are probably more likely to work when the patient trusts the doctor. Now, that does mean that the doctor needs to be able to build trust, even knowing that a placebo is being prescribed. Can all doctors keep a straight face when they're doing that? Or build trust if they know that they believe in the placebo, but they're not disclosing it's a placebo? I don't know. I imagine it depends on the doctor.

In psychology, extensive research has been done to look at the different modalities and methods used to heal clients. For example, looking at art therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, or Jungian analysis, what patients really say helps is the relationship. At least from a psychological standpoint, most of our wounds happen in relationship, so we need relationships to heal us.

It used to be that we had plenty of time to talk with our doctors, and with that rapport, we built a level of trust. In a way, a doctor could be a shaman, and help us to heal because we believed in that individual. In that case, I imagine it's the resonance -- the alignment, between doctor and patient -- that creates the conditions for healing.

Over the past five years, I have experienced a health issue that initially took me to a homeopath, an acupuncturist, and a naturopath, all of whom contributed something, not only to my healing, but to my personal development. I chose these people because they reflected back to me values and approaches that felt right. I am not the type to trust a doctor simply because of his or her credentials. Harvard, Stanford, that's nice, but it's not the university that heals. It's the practitioner and his or her ability to touch something in me that's ready to hear and take in the guidance, be that pills, surgery, exercise, or some other prescription.

I'm a big believer in the theory that we have everything we need inside of ourselves to thrive (no wonder, on the career front, I call my company "Work from Within"). We may not always know how to tap that inner wisdom, but I think it's the relationship with the practitioner, even more importantly than the placebo, to promote our inner resources to move us into a state of well-being.

Let's put it this way: I bet if we did an experiment and compared an uptight, angry, arrogant doctor who had a so-called "miracle cure," and a really kind, empathic, caring doctor who had a cure that was likely to work but uncertain, most people would get better with the kind doctor. Now, I could be wrong. Maybe some people actually trust the arrogant doctor more. We'd have to test for preference of personality as part of the experiment, of course.

All that said, I'm in favor of a strong, caring relationship between doctor and patient, one that builds trust. I believe that, in the long-run, that's a prescription for preventative wellness.

What do you think?

Happinessvirus's picture

Healing Ourselves

Hi Lissa - not sure if you've come across the work of Dr David Hamilton? Originally from Scotland, he worked in a pharmaceutical company and it was the effect that placebos had that got him interested in what might happen with drugs... and he's written a number of books since...I love what he says... if I had my time to do over, I'd be a neuro scientist, I think... it's fascinating! x

Lissa Rankin's picture

naturopathic medicine

Dear Dr. Andrea,
Two of my old partners were naturopaths. In fact, one went to Bastyr. I'm a big fan of naturopathic medicine!

Keep up the good work.
Much love

Lissa Rankin's picture

people who never get well

These studies have been done and it turns out that there's no such thing as "placebo-responsive" vs. "placebo-non responsive" people. In clinical trials, everyone is susceptible to the placebo response.

Researchers suspected that perhaps less intelligent people would be more "gullible" and thus more likely to respond. This turns out not to be true. In fact, those with high IQs are more likely to respond.

I know some people will bite my head off for saying this, but I think, in many cases, those with chronic illnesses who don't get better fail to get healthy because there's actually some secondary gain for them in being sick. I've seen this over and over in my practice. When illness gives them the chance to rest, to get love and attention, to slow down, to have an excuse not to pursue their passions, they may actually be motivated to stay sick.

Those who get well against all odds have an incredible will to live and no interest in the "benefits" of being sick.

Then again, there are some who are just destined to be sick, for reasons we can't understand. This is where my spiritual self comes in. Perhaps it's in the highest good for those people to be sick for reasons we just can't explain.

This is the part science can never study of course...

Anonymous's picture

discussion topic thoughts

I have often wondered about the people who get well when using placebos. Once I said jokingly "Someone should study those people who get well and find out how they differ from those who don't get well". We also need to know about the people who never get better, regardless of treatments used.

Andrea's picture

Naturopathic Medicine in this context

Dear Lissa,

Thank you very much for your insightful posts!

I was wondering if you have heard of science-based (NIH funded) naturopathic medicine training in the US and what your thoughts are. Here is a link to one such program, at Bastyr University: http://www.bastyr.edu/education/naturopath/degree/training.asp

All best wishes!

Lissa Rankin's picture

Icky feelings

I agree Lisa B. Deception feels icky to me too, so I'm studying whether honest dosing of placebos still works. Some studies (one for colitis out of Harvard) suggests it still works if people know they're getting placebos, in which case, why not?

Fascinating stuff to me. Thanks for your thoughts. (You too Daphne!)

Lisa B's picture

Engage the placebo effect

Purposely prescribing sugar pills feels a little icky to me. It feels like it's undermining the patient's role. But I think you can absolutely engage/ maximize the placebo effect with whatever treatment you are using. I did a research paper on this my first year in med school - fascinating topic!

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