What Can Words Do for a Patient?
Do you remember the phrase, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me?” If you do, you might think, What’s that have to do with doctors helping patients? As it turns out, words are more powerful than people give them credit to be. Not only can hurtful words create more damage than a broken bone, but encouraging words can help to heal them.
A study completed and published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine recently looked at how a few words of encouragement from a doctor can help to speed up the healing process. While it may sound like something out of science fiction, the roots of this study stem from a holistic health point.
Dr. Crum and his colleagues led the study with 76 participants. Each of the participants was given a prick of histamine in the arm, to begin with. In other words, they had shots that forced their arms to itch. After a while, the doctors came back in to perform their test. Split into two groups, half of the participants in the trial were told, “From this point forward your allergic reaction will start to diminish, and your rash and irritation will go away.” The other half were not told this statement.
Before this statement, all symptoms experienced by the group were marked similar. However, after the control and experimental groups diverged, changes were noticed. The patients that were given the words of encouragement healed and went back to normal at a faster than average rate when compared to the control group.
The physicians of the study said, “Importantly, this effect was achieved without offering medication or other treatment.” They went to say that this shows that the placebo effect could work with not only pills but with words as well.
They wrote that this study supported the utility of assurance alone as a form of prescription. For minor complaints guarantees alone could help the patent physically and mentally while cutting down on the prescribing of medications. Though the doctors did note that all patients were healthy, un-stressed, and knew that the allergic reactions would go away overtime on their own.
Word Alone as a Treatment
In times where pills are prescribed for any trip to the doctor, this shows that sometimes encouragement is all a patient needs. This study demonstrates the critical role that doctors play in now only healing the patient's body with their knowledge but with their actions and words as well.
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