The Power of a Placebo

Wrist band relief for nausea among cancer patients linked to placebo effect

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THURSDAY, Sept. 4, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- The placebo effect seems to play a part in acupressure wrist bands that claim to ease the nausea of cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, says a University of Rochester Medical Center study.

The researchers found that cancer patients who expected the wrist bands to work were much more likely to experience relief than either patients who didn't expect the wrist bands to help or patients who didn't receive the wrist bands.

The researchers compared the response in cancer patients who received either one of two different kinds of pressure wrist bands or no band. The bands apply steady pressure to an acupuncture point on the inside of the wrist. These kinds of bands are sold in drugstores, but aren't widely used in medicine.

The patients with the bands wore them on the day of their chemotherapy treatment and the following four days.

Overall, about 15 percent of the patients with the wrist bands reported less nausea on the day of treatment, compared to patients without the bands. The wrist band wearers had about the same amount of nausea and vomiting as the others in the four days following chemotherapy.

The study found that patients who expected the bands to help them rated their nausea about 25 percent less severe than other patients on the day of chemotherapy treatment and about 13 percent less severe on the following four days.

Those people also reported a higher quality of life over the four days following chemotherapy treatment and used less anti-nausea medication.

"A large number of patients who wore pressure bands found them to be quite helpful. But we think that the effect of the pressure bands was primarily a placebo effect. It appeared that the bands themselves did little or nothing, just as a placebo pill does nothing by itself," lead author Joseph Roscoe, research assistant professor, says in a news release.

The study appears in the August issue of Pain and Symptom Management.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about the placebo effect.

SOURCE: University of Rochester Medical Center, news release, August 2003

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