When a medication is effective despite having no active ingredients, scientists call it a placebo. We talk with our studio guest about what the placebo effect can do for patients. Also: microdermabrasion to smooth the skin, healing with acupuncture, artificial ankles, and the secret behind sneezing.
When a medication is effective despite having no active ingredients, we refer to it as a placebo. But there are placebos involved in virtually every kind of treatment. Trust, empathy and conviction play a major role in whether a treatment is effective and to what extent, and they can often be more important than the active ingredients in a particular medication.
Acupuncture is often used to treat chronic headaches and back pain. Theoretically, the needles influence flow of "qi”, the life force. The method is controversial in the West, although it has been established that it occasionally works better than conventional medical treatment. Just how it works remains unclear. It has often been speculated that its effectiveness is due to the placebo effect.
Microdermabrasion is a cosmetic skin-smoothing procedure in which a stream of fine crystals gently removes the outermost dead cells of the epidermis. The aim is to make the skin renew itself and thus speed up the self-regeneration process. Properly carried out, it has scarcely any side effects, though it is not recommended for anyone suffering from a skin disorder.
The ankle connects the foot to the tibia. It’s very resilient, but as the result of a fracture it can wear out prematurely. For a long time it wasn’t possible to replace the complicated joint satisfactorily with a prosthetic one, but in the past few years prostheses have become worthwhile alternatives to the usual procedure of fusing the ankle.
Sneezing frees our noses from grime and germs. The reflex is triggered by an irritation of the mucous membranes of the nose, the nasal mucosa. The fine nerve cells in the mucosa react to foreign particles such as dust by sending impulses to the medulla oblongata, which controls involuntary functions such as sneezing.