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Do Health Magnets to Treat Pain Work

Published: 2015/04/09 - Updated: 2021/08/23
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Synopsis: Information regarding the pros and cons of whether health or therapy magnets actually work. What is known from the scientific evidence about the effectiveness of magnets in treating pain? Overall, the research findings so far do not firmly support claims that magnets are effective for treatment of pain. Researchers have been studying electromagnets for painful conditions, such as knee pain from osteoarthritis, chronic pelvic pain, problems in bones and muscles, and migraine headaches.

Main Digest

Magnet therapy, magnetic therapy, or magno-therapy is a pseudo-scientific alternative medicine practice involving the use of static magnetic fields. Magnet therapy is the application of the magnetic field of electromagnetic devices or permanent static magnets to the body for purported health benefits. Practitioners claim that subjecting certain parts of the body to magneto-static fields produced by permanent magnets has beneficial health effects. Products include magnetic bracelets and jewelry; magnetic straps for wrists, ankles, knees, and back; shoe insoles; mattresses; magnetic blankets (blankets with magnets woven into the material); magnetic creams; magnetic supplements; plasters/patches and water that has been "magnetized". These physical and biological claims are unproven and no effects on health or healing have been established.


How are Static Magnets Used in Attempts to Treat Pain?

Static magnets are usually made from iron, steel, rare-earth elements, or alloys. Typically, the magnets are placed directly on the skin or placed inside clothing or other materials that come into close contact with the body. Static magnets can be unipolar (one pole of the magnet faces or touches the skin) or bipolar (both poles face or touch the skin, sometimes in repeating patterns). Some magnet manufacturers make claims about the poles of magnets-for example, that a unipolar design is better than a bipolar design, or that the north pole gives a different effect from the south pole. These claims have not been scientifically proven.

A small number of rigorous scientific studies have examined the efficacy of static magnets in treating pain.

How are Electromagnets Used in Attempts to Treat Pain?

Electromagnets were approved by the FDA in 1979 to treat bone fractures that have not healed well. Researchers have been studying electromagnets for painful conditions, such as knee pain from osteoarthritis, chronic pelvic pain, problems in bones and muscles, and migraine headaches. However, these uses of electromagnets are still considered experimental by the FDA and have not been approved. Currently, electromagnets to treat pain are being used mainly under the supervision of a health care provider and/or in clinical trials.

An electromagnetic therapy called TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation) is also being studied by researchers. In TMS, an insulated coil is placed against the head, near the area of the brain to be examined or treated, and an electrical current generates a magnetic field into the brain. Currently, TMS is most often used as a diagnostic tool, but research is also under way to see whether it is effective in relieving pain. A type of TMS called rTMS (repetitive TMS) is believed by some to produce longer lasting effects and is being explored for its usefulness in treating chronic pain, facial pain, headache, and fibromyalgia pain. A related form of electromagnetic therapy is rMS (repetitive magnetic stimulation). It is similar to rTMS except that the magnetic coil is placed on or near a painful area of the body other than the head. This therapy is being studied as a treatment for musculoskeletal pain.

What is known from the scientific evidence about the effectiveness of magnets in treating pain

Overall, the research findings so far do not firmly support claims that magnets are effective for treatment of pain.

Findings from Reviews of Scientific Studies

Reviews take a broad look at the findings from a group of individual research studies. Such reviews are usually either a general review, a systematic review, or a meta-analysis. There are not many reviews available on CAM uses of magnets to treat pain.

Often, these reviews compared what is known from the clinical trials of magnets for painful conditions to what is known from conventional treatments or from other CAM treatments for the same condition(s).

One review found that static magnetic therapy may work for certain conditions but that there is not adequate scientific support to justify its use.

Three reviews found that electromagnetic therapy showed promise for the treatment of some, but not all, painful conditions, and that more research is needed. One of these reviews also looked at two randomized clinical trials (RCTs) of static magnets. One reported significant pain relief in subjects using magnets, but the other did not.

Another review concluded that TMS has an effect on the central nervous system that might relieve chronic pain and, therefore, should be studied further.

The remaining review found no studies on magnets for neck pain and stated that rigorous studies are much needed.

It is important to note that the reviews pointed out problems with the rigor of most research on magnets for pain. For example, many of the clinical trials involved a very small number of participants, were conducted for very short durations (e.g., one study applied a magnet a total of one time for 45 minutes), and/or lacked a placebo or sham group for comparison to the magnet group. Thus, the results of many trials may not be truly meaningful. Most reviews stated that more and better quality research is needed before magnets' effectiveness can be adequately judged.

Findings from Clinical Trials

The studies give an overview of scientific research from 15 RCTs published in English from January 1997 through March 2004 and cataloged in the National Library of Medicine's MEDLINE database. These trials studied CAM uses of static magnets or electromagnets for various kinds of pain.

The results of trials of static magnets have been conflicting. Four of the nine static magnet trials analyzed found no significant difference in pain relief from using a magnet compared with sham treatment or usual medical care. Four trials did find a significant difference, with greater benefit seen from magnets. The remaining trial compared only a weaker strength magnet to a stronger magnet, and found benefit from both (there was no difference between groups in how much benefit).

Trials of electromagnets yielded more consistent results. Five out of six trials found that these magnets significantly reduced pain. The sixth found a significant benefit to physical function from using electromagnets, but not to pain or stiffness.

Some study authors suggested that a placebo effect could have been responsible for the pain relief that occurred from magnets.

While criticizing many of these studies, it is fair to say that testing magnets in clinical trials has presented challenges. For example, it can be difficult to design a sham magnet that appears exactly like an active magnet. Also, there has been concern about how many participants have tried to determine whether they have been assigned an active magnet (for example, by seeing whether a paper-clip would be attracted to it); this knowledge could affect how meaningful a trial's results are.

Scientific Controversies Associated with Using Magnets for Pain

There are many controversies. Examples include:

Side Effects

The kinds of magnets marketed to consumers are generally considered to be safe when applied to the skin. Reports of side effects or complications have been rare. One study reported that a small percentage of participants had bruising or redness on their skin where a magnet was worn.

Manufacturers often recommend that static magnets not be used by the following people:

There have been rare cases of problems reported from the use of electromagnets. Because at present these are being used mainly under the supervision of a health care provider and/or in clinical trials, readers are advised to consult their provider about any questions.

Magnetic Copper Bracelets

Millions of individuals suffering from chronic joint pain, rheumatism and arthritis may finally find relief with magnetic copper bracelets.

Several manufacturers have created designs featuring function and fashion with principles that date back thousands of years ago. Discover more about the combination of copper and magnets and how to pick the right one for your physical needs.

Why Copper?

Copper was initially used by the ancient Greeks and Romans after discovering that there seems to be noticeable beneficial effects on long term pain and other joint and muscle problems. Old civilizations have relied on magnetic fields for many purposes especially healing. As the years passed, other metals were also introduced and magnetized to properly provide magnetic forces that create environmental balance in the body. Copper continued to be sported by many star athletes and celebrities in the modern era which explains why the trend as well as the therapeutic principles behind still remains to this day.

Magnetic copper bracelets come in many styles and forms such as chain links and wraps and in simpler versions like cuffs. Copper is generally preferred by most people since its effects are believed to be more effective and potent compared to other elements like gold and silver. Copper is also considerably lightweight and very easy to work with so the bracelets can be worn anytime and anywhere. People then can expect faster and more noticeable results if they wear the pieces for longer periods of time. Copper is recommended to be placed near the affected areas.

Copper Designs

Skilled craftsmen and jewelers have made very attractive versions of magnetic copper bracelets so people get to have the best of both worlds by gaining therapeutic effects aside from the elegant luster on their wrists. Copper can be crafted and shaped into forms and patterns according to the specifications of the buyer. There are golf copper bracelets, hammered copper bracelets and other figures uniquely taking the form of a whip, vines or snake.

Getting More Stylish

More intricate designs include the addition of hematite beads and magnetic charms which also increases the overall gauss of the magnets. Some magnetic copper bracelets can reach up to 15,000 to 20,000 gauss. Other precious metals may be added like gold, silver and titanium. These can be meshed together creating a beautiful synchrony of colors and tones. Text and patterns may be engraved for a more dramatic effect. The good thing about copper bracelets is their waterproof properties so there's no need to remove when taking a shower or going for a dip.

There are sporty styles like the golf and tennis copper bracelets which come in quite handy for individuals prone to carpal tunnel syndrome and wrist anomalies. Sabona magnetic copper bracelets never go out of vogue for those who prefer a more versatile design. These can comfortably and fashionably be worn in any casual, semi-formal and formal occasion.

Price and Warranty

The price of magnetic copper bracelets depends on the size of the bracelet, the details and strength of the magnets. More powerful magnets do not increase the total price significantly except for the addition of more copper and other metals. You can find affordable models for as low as $17. Very stylish and intricate designs will cost you a few more hundred dollars.

Some Purported Uses of Health Magnets Include:

How do people use magnetic energy to help them with daily life issues? Some examples follow:

Energy Booster

Through some little-known process, magnetic energy seems to refresh and recharge lagging energy levels. Users of magnetic products report noticeably higher energy levels, which translate to being able to walk longer distances without tiring or stay up longer without fatigue.

Sleep Help

Those who have tried magnetic mattress pads claim they fall asleep more quickly, can choose to either sleep longer or awake earlier, and feel more refreshed the next day.

Cleaner Air to Breathe

Magnetic air filters are a significant added bonus to a good air filtration system. They infuse indoor air with magnetic energy while filtering it, and the end result is an indoor environment that is highly breathable while also giving the inhabitants a general sense of well-being and leaving them energized.

Softer Water for Drinking and Bathing

Few of us are aware that water filters are another type of home appliance that may also feature magnetic technology. Those lucky enough to have discovered magnetic water filters report lighter, softer and more alkaline water for drinking and bathing, which results in softer skin, silky hair, and more importantly, better health all around. Spinning magnetic water filtration components are said to produce smaller clusters of water molecules, improving hydration and water conditioning.

Stress Busting

Being around a source of magnetic energy has been compared to being close to a rushing waterfall, where the air is clear, clean and infused with an energizing yet relaxing effect.

Mood Help

When stress is relieved, the mood lifts. Animals as well as people gravitate towards those things that make them feel light and carefree. Magnets reportedly have this effect on all living things.

Pet Help

Pets are known to gravitate towards a magnetic energy source, especially those that have special rotating parts. Horses stop limping when magnets are applied to a site that is sore, and cats have been known to prefer a magnetic mattress pad over their favorite pet bed.

Plant Help

Plants grow faster, burst into flower with little coaxing and bear fruit when small pieces of magnetic material are placed in the surrounding soil. Cut flowers placed in magnetically-filtered water tend to droop less and stay fresh much longer than usual. Watering plants with magnetically-filtered water also appears to make them more robust, reviving quickly after wilting from neglect or disease.

Sports and Fitness Help

Many sports and fitness fans report higher levels of performance when using magnetic back pads, shoe insoles and wrist wraps. Competitive sports groups use magnetic products to give their team a legal edge to improve competition results.

Relief from Physical Discomfort

This is probably the most widely-discussed reason by people who use magnetic products for wellness. Dramatic reports from users of magnetic products tell of relief from a wide range of physical discomforts, from aching joints to mood disorders.

Magnetic products have become popular with those who are looking for non-medicinal solutions, especially in light of recent reports of negative side effects from prescription medication.

What should consumers know if they are considering using magnets to treat pain?

It is important that people inform all their health care providers about any therapy they are using or considering, including magnetic therapy. This is to help ensure a safe and coordinated plan of care.

In the studies that did find benefits from magnetic therapy, many have shown those benefits very quickly. This suggests that if a magnet does work, it should not take very long for the user to start noticing the effect. Therefore, people may wish to purchase magnets with a 30-day return policy and return the product if they do not get satisfactory results within 1 to 2 weeks.

If people decide to use magnets and they experience side effects that concern them, they should stop using the magnets and contact their health care providers.

Consumers who are considering magnets, whether for pain or other conditions, can consult the free publications prepared by Federal Government agencies.

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