Understanding How Brain Responds to a Placebo May Allow Scientists to Improve Pain Relief for Injured Workers

A recent study from Northwestern Medicine and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, published in Science Daily, relates that scientists have identified what part of a patient’s brain is triggered during a “placebo effect.”  A “placebo” is a “fake medicine,” which can actually cause real pain relief.

We have many injured workers who suffer tremendous pain due to a litany of different conditions, from a fractured ankle, to a lumbar radiculopathy, to complex regional pain syndrome [CRPS] (formerly known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy [RSD]).  Even years after a work injury, many of our clients continue to suffer chronic and unremitting pain.  Relief through medications is often hit and misses.

This research is not suggesting that injured workers are not actually suffering from pain, or that placebos should be more widely used.  Instead, the significance of this research is to identify where to look in the brain of an injured worker, to determine how that person is processing a medication (since each person is a unique individual, and treatment helping one may not help another).

We believe any advances that can reduce the chronic pain suffered by injured workers is a wonderful cause, and we will be closely following further developments in this area.