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The Nocebo Effect: What It Is and How to Prevent It

What is the Nocebo Effect?

The nocebo effect is a phenomenon in which expectation or belief leads to adverse outcomes. It is the opposite of the placebo effect, in which positive expectations lead to positive results. The nocebo effect has been extensively studied in medicine, and it is thought to play a role in a wide range of conditions, including pain, anxiety, and fatigue. While the nocebo effect is often considered a negative phenomenon, it can also be harnessed for positive purposes. For example, by instilling patients with positive expectations about their health and recovery, doctors can help to improve outcomes. In this way, understanding the nocebo effect can help promote wellness and prevent illness.

How Physical Therapists Can Help Prevent Nocebo in Patients

We must recognize the role that language plays in treatment. In most instances, we tend to remember more of the negatives and talk about these with patients during their experiences. Yes, we need to be transparent and realistic with patients, but also, we can reduce the adverse effects by changing our language.

Framing of conditions and examination findings can heavily influence placebo and nocebo contextual effects that will always be present within treatment encounters. Seemingly minimal changes to how we say something or discuss a conclusion with a patient may have a lasting impact and change their decisions around treatments.

The best ways to frame things tend to be favorable to induce good responses, as in most instances, people do not have severe life-changing or threatening injuries. Remember, most but not all situations. But, even in some cases, we can influence a patient’s self-efficacy and motivation to participate with treatments but framing treatment effects more positively, within reason and realistic expectations.

Learn More about Working with a Physical Therapist

Thanks for considering working with a physical therapist! Here are a few things to keep in mind as you learn more about what we do.

Physical therapy is a type of healthcare that helps people improve their movement and function. We work with people of all ages, from infants to older adults. We treat a wide variety of conditions, including arthritis, back pain, stroke, and cerebral palsy.

At its core, physical therapy is all about helping people achieve their goals. Whether someone is trying to recover from an injury or improve their quality of life, we are here to help. We create individualized treatment plans based on each person’s unique needs and goals.

If you’re thinking about working with a physical therapist, the best thing to do is schedule a consultation. This will give you a chance to learn more about what we do and how we can help you achieve your goals.

Schedule a FREE 15-minute Exploration Visit

Come visit one of our physical therapy clinics in New York or North Carolina and one of our Doctors of Physical Therapy will do a 15-minute consultation to see if physical therapy is right for you. In the consultation, we’ll help determine the source of pain and movement restrictions to see if you would benefit from physical therapy or might need the assistance of another healthcare professional. If so, we’ll make a referral and help speed up achieving your health goal.

You have nothing to lose; the screening is free! And if physical therapy could help you, we can perform the examination right then–even without a prescription–with Direct Access (covered by insurance).

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