We all know that painkillers such as paracetamol and NSAIDs can provide quick relief from osteoarthritis - or do we? This most basic level of medical care has been questioned by the results of several studies recently, which suggest that neither is as effective as we thought.
The most surprising is the effectiveness - or otherwise - of paracetamol, whose painkilling qualities have been a given for the longest time. But when researchers tested the effectiveness against a placebo on people with arthritic knees, 52 per cent in both groups reported an easing of their pain.
Similarly, those who used a topical NSAID cream to help their osteoarthritis fared no better than those who rubbed in a placebo cream.
Looking at it another way, placebo was as good as any drug, which indicates that mental suggestion could be a powerful painkiller. This is supported by another study of 40 rheumatoid arthritis sufferers whose pain was reduced by meditation. They were taught a form of meditation called mindfulness, which focuses on the breath. As they reduced their stress levels, so their pain decreased, researchers discovered.