Provider Beliefs May Affect Pain Relief

Provider Beliefs May Affect Pain Relief | NIH News in HealthJanuary 2020

How your health care provider interacts with you is important. Their style can shape how you feel about your treatment.

A new study found that people experienced less pain when the treatment provider expected a pain reliever to work. This may have been due, in part, to the provider’s facial expressions.

This goes completely against what I and many other pain patients have experienced: Our doctors always believe that whatever treatment they are prescribing or providing will work and most patients do too. “Hope springs eternal” until patients face the reality that this placebo treatment isn’t working.

Every doctor I’ve ever encountered has believed their suggestions would work. Some even got angry with me when they didn’t.

But some doctors became curious and more interested after all the standard interventions proved ineffective. I don’t mind trying a new therapy or medication and always hope this “new thing” will do the trick but I’ve been repeatedly disappointed. 

Doctors take pride in solving medical cases and “fixing” their patients, but chronic pain challenges their competence. From their experience and training, they have strong beliefs about what will accomplish that, so doctors often didn’t believe me when I reported that their suggested treatment wasn’t effective.

I’ve been extremely lucky to have twice found doctors who believed me when I reported that their suggested treatments didn’t ease my pain. They trusted me and prescribed opioids because that was the only effective treatment.

When the doctor thought that the treatment was going to work, the patient reported feeling that the doctor was more empathetic,” says Dr. Luke Chang of Dartmouth College.

“The doctor may have come across as warmer or more attentive. Yet, we don’t know exactly what the doctor was doing differently to convey these beliefs that a treatment works.”

Socially transmitted placebo effects. Chen PA, Cheong JH, Jolly E, Elhence H, Wager TD, Chang LJ. Nat Hum Behav. 2019 Oct 21. doi: 10.1038/s41562-019-0749-5. [Epub ahead of print]. PMID: 31636406.

3 thoughts on “Provider Beliefs May Affect Pain Relief

  1. Kathy C

    It’s funny, when a doctor treats you like something he scarped off of his shoe, it does not bode well. I recently had an appointment with a new primary care, my insurance requires that I have one. I decided to got with a nurse practitioner, since it would be months before I could see an actual physician. The last primary care physician I had retired, he was over 80, and all we could do was laugh. He did not criticize me at least, and we had some great conversations.

    So of course on the day of my appointment there is a “computer glitch, the “system is down again. The assistant insisted on going over every medication I had ever taken, two or three times. Since the computer was down it had not “updated” she told me.

    Then the NP comes in, as I am reading their opioid poster, on the horrors of opioids It is prominently displayed behind the door. It was the only reading material in the room. She is pushing a cart thingy with a tablet on it , and other devices dangling from it. This device took all of her attention, she did not even make eye contact. I tell her, ” I was just reading your poster,” She says in a relay snotty and demeaning way,”good.” As if I were some kind of idiot. I told her “maybe they should put some numbers statistics on there,” of course there was no response.

    It was an awful experience they are just horrible. One thing though is that i can walk in there and get a flue shot if I need it. She wanted me to get some standard tests that people my age get. I asked her “why would I want to do that?” They lost my imaging a couple of years ago, and I really do not want to subject myself to any more intrusive or annoying tests. Getting my spine injected and nerves ablated from time to time is enough.

    I brought some groceries to one of my friends, he is in his seventies, and a Veteran. Last November he broke his arm, two broken bones. They decided not to set it or do surgery. Now they are telling him he needs surgery, but he is afraid to even go in, due to the Corona Virus. This poor guy has suffered all winter. He is a stroke survivor, so he already had trouble moving part of his body, and is in constant pain. The VA refused to do anything for him. Now they can’t.
    I still can’t get over the Genocidal response to the Corona Virus. I had to risk exposure going to a pharmacy several times to pick up a prescription. Now supposedly the truck was delayed. I am afraid that I might bring it home to my partner or someone else. They have already found a few cases in town, even one movie star. No one here is taking it too seriously but it seems that it is already here. One person I know, was exposed and most likely has it after a mandatory work meeting in Texas. That means that several other people I know are likely infected. We don’t really know, because there are not enough tests.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Zyp Czyk Post author

      This coronavirus is exposing the ugly underbelly of our rapacious greed (more for me is always better) and deliberate ignorance (if I don’t believe it, it won’t happen). Very sad.


  2. leejcaroll

    I have a feeling thereis something missing from the study; that it was not chronic pain they were writing about but acute pain or run of the mill pain,.



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