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If magnotherapy heals arthritic animals …

A complementary therapy to which animals appear to respond as well as humans is magnetic healingy. Recent cases include a rejuvenated old, arthritic Labrador and a horse healed from a permanent limp suffered after breaking her cannon bone.

The placebo effect
Medical researchers take great care to eliminate the placebo effect. This is where a therapy or drug gives benefit simply because the patient wants it to and believes it will, and can account for up to 60% of 'successes'. The principal way to minimise the placebo effect from research findings is to create a control group, as similar as possible in (e.g.) age, diet, socio-economic background and anyother relevant factors to the study group.

The control group is given what appears to be exactly the same treatment as the study group but are, in fact, given a harmless look-alike/feel-alike 'placebo' treatment. If the responses from the study group and the control group are significantly different, it is reasonable to conclude that the therapy being tested has a real effect. What constitutes 'significantly different' depends on what is being compared.

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Human 'cures' where a controlled study would not be required to eliminate the 'placebo effect' are rare. One such is the phenomenon of people back problems unexpectedly clearing up after a patient has undergone a magnetic resonance imagery (MRI) scan to investigate those problems.

It is also accepted, perhaps erroneously, that the placebo effect cannot exist with animals, so when an animal responds to a therapy scientists are often more sure that the effect is real.

Although it is not scientific to assume that something which helps one species will help another (cats, for instance, are poisoned by aspirin), where a therapy is non-invasive, it is certainly worth a try.

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(5600) Dr. James le Fanu. Sunday Telegraph