The theater of health – Dr McQuaid Lakeport Podiatrist

The theater of health – Dr McQuaid Lakeport Podiatrist

Today’s column is the second in a series inspired by the December 2016 issue of National Geographic entitled, The Healing Power of Faith. After 21 years in medical practice I have observed firsthand the power of faith and healing. I call this attitudinal medicine. I have witnessed in myself and in my patients the power to heal is in the attitude of trust. Trusting in your doctor and in the process of healing is the attitude to have for the resolution of disease.

In the National Geographic article it describes faith in healing as similar to the performance in a play. Our trust in healing is much like a theater. The article states, “And just as a good performance in a theater can draw us in until we feel were watching something real, the theater of healing is designed to draw us in by creating powerful expectations in our brains”.

The expectations in our brains power the impulse to heal. These expectations also explain the placebo effect. When we expect to heal, many times we can. Expectation and intention are the links between the neurochemical mechanisms that connect the mind and the body and belief with experience.

To make a good performance in a play requires good sets and costumes. A good science fiction movie requires great special effects. Having trust in healing is energized by the scenes experienced. Like in a play, the doctors in white coats with stethoscopes around their necks, the nurses in uniforms, the x-ray equipment making noise, the needle that draws your blood. All of these images are the theater of medicine.

Here are some interesting findings regarding the theater of health. Studies show brand-name placebos work better than generic names. The more expensive the treatment, the more likely the patient responds. Injection placebo is more effective than pills. The most powerful of all, is placebo surgery. It seems that like in a movie, the bigger the blockbuster, the better.

Recently in my own life I applied these principles. Several weeks ago I planned a ski trip with my son in Lake Tahoe. This was a very special father-son experience that had been highly anticipated between the two of us. Unfortunately, five days before the trip I strained my lower back. I could barely move and the pain was intense.

So not wanting to cancel this special time with my son, I went to the theater of medicine. I engaged in several performances. I went to my chiropractor, to the acupuncturist, to the massage therapist, to the yoga studio, and I took ibuprofen to help with the pain and inflammation. In addition, I used an inversion table and home physical therapy with ice and traction.

Everything worked together. My trust in the process of getting better enabled me to resolve the back issue before the ski trip. The scenery of the ski trip was also helpful as skiing is my passion. The fresh air, the majestic scenery of the mountains all contributed to my healing. Saturday on the mountain was cautious, but by Sunday I was skiing at my full performance level. At the end of skiing on Sunday it was like nothing had happened.

I attributed my success in relieving my back pain to my trust in healing. I don’t use the word placebo much in my medical practice or in my own personal health. I often say whatever works is whatever works. I have no objection to any form of healing. All forms of healing are complementary. Trust in the process is the necessary ingredient to success. We can call the mechanism whatever we want be it placebo, faith, or belief. It is your trust in the process that brings about health.

George Bernard Shaw has a wonderful quote that summarizes the elements of this article. He wrote, “You see things as they are and say, why? But I dream things that never were and say, why not?” Why not trust in your ability to heal? Go to the theater of health.

Matthew McQuaid, DPM is a board certified foot surgeon practicing in Lakeport. He has a particular interest in Mind/Body medicine and its impact on healing. He is an award winning author and teacher. Please share this article with a friend. For more information please call 707-263-3727 and visit

The theater of health – Dr McQuaid Lakeport Podiatrist

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