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Placebo Effect

April 4, 2011 | By Chris Woolston, Special to the Los Angeles Times
If you see professional athletes or weekend warriors with a crazy crosshatch of tape on their shoulders, knees or elbows, they probably aren't making a fashion statement. Chances are they're trying to tape over some pain. So-called kinesiology tapes — two prominent examples are Kinesio Tex Tape and KT Tape — gained worldwide attention during the 2008 Olympics, largely thanks to the heavily taped shoulder of American beach volleyball player Kerri Walsh. Unlike traditional tapes that wrap around joints to provide support and compression, kinesiology tape sticks directly to the sore spots like big Band-Aids.
Botox is remarkably safe, especially considering it's a powerful toxin. Occasionally, a mild headache that lasts a few hours may occur after an injection in muscles of the forehead. Very rarely, though, that headache may become excruciating and can last as long as a month.
January 11, 2010
Fitness stores sell a variety of spinal decompression/traction devices -- inversion tables and ankle boots that hang you upside down and stretch out your back -- on the promise that they help relieve back pain, enhance general back fitness, provide deep relaxation and maybe even slow age-related height shrinkage. The last, after all, is partially caused by the flattening and dehydration of the soft disks that separate your vertebrae. Salespeople say that running, lifting weights, carrying excess pounds, even the simple act of sitting in a chair all day can exaggerate the compressive force of gravity on the disks, which tend to shrink as much as a half-inch during the day and, like sponges, rehydrate during sleep.
February 11, 2008 | By Regina Nuzzo, Special to The Times
AS they seek to document and demystify one of life's great thrills, scientists have run across some real head-scratchers. How, for example, can they explain the fact that some men and women who are paralyzed and numb below the waist are able to have orgasms? How to explain the "orgasmic auras" that can descend at the onset of epileptic seizures -- sensations so pleasurable they prompt some patients to refuse antiseizure medication? And how on Earth to explain the case of the amputee who felt his orgasms centered in that missing foot?
July 20, 2009 | Emily Sohn
Allergies were far from Christie Littauer's mind when she fed creamed spinach to her son Jack for the first time. The 6-month-old had already eaten peas and green beans. Why not try something more exciting? "A few bites into it, he started wheezing," says Littauer, of Henderson, Nev. "He got bright red. Something was obviously wrong."
January 20, 2003 | Shari Roan, Times Staff Writer
Psychosomatic illnesses shouldn't be confused with imagined conditions. Helping those who imagine or feign illness is different from -- and harder than -- treating psychosomatic illness, says Dr. Marc Feldman, a nationally known expert in psychosomatic medicine. "We're probably more advanced right now in understanding the brain-body connection. But when you talk about the mind and the role of fantasy, we're a long way off," he says. Hypochondria is a particularly vexing problem.
February 18, 2004 | Todd Dufresne
What an utter disappointment the 1990s were for the fans of Freud. Time magazine asked aloud, and on its cover no less, "Is Freud Dead?" And the former analytic stronghold, the New York Review of Books, published lengthy feature articles debunking Freud's reputation as a man and as a thinker. By the end of the decade, even the New Yorker was in on the action. Taken as a whole, these sensations of the 1990s, part of the so-called "Freud wars," capture the gist of a cause well lost.
July 5, 2010 | By Wendy Hansen, Special to the Los Angeles Times
Pain is private. Unlike blood pressure or temperature or other symptoms easily measured and defined, the physical reaction to unpleasant stimuli is hard to quantify or predict. It varies from person to person, with each individual describing pain — and its intensity — differently. But that private perception can make the difference between a trip to the medicine cabinet for an aspirin or a trip to the doctor's office for something much stronger. Researchers study pain not to separate whiners from stoics but to understand why pain varies and, eventually, create individually tailored treatments for the many specific ailments that fall under the umbrella of pain.
June 19, 2006 | Jeannine Stein, Times Staff Writer
Can "super-oxygenated" water make people run faster? Yes -- if they think it can. The water, marketed under different brands, is touted as having more oxygen content than regular tap water and, thus, the ability to enhance athletic performance -- claims that have been debunked by scientists who consider it no more than nicely packaged snake oil.
August 9, 2003 | From Staff and Wire Reports
Dr. Louis Lasagna, 80, who led a crusade calling for the clinical testing of drugs before their approval and rewrote the Hippocratic Oath recited by graduating doctors, died of lymphoma Thursday in a hospital in Newton, Mass. Lasagna, a native of Queens, N.Y., who served as dean of Tufts University's Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences for two decades, was best known for his work in clinical pharmacology.
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