Magnetic therapy doesn’t get much respect from mainstream science, but millions of users say they’ve gotten relief from a magnetic therapy bracelet or other therapy magnets. This is a quick review of the uses and benefits of magnet therapy including a study that surprised the skeptics.
Magnetic Field Therapy Overview: Magnetic therapy generally refers to electrically charged therapy magnets that deliver a pulse to the treated area or static therapy magnets that are placed on the treated area for continuous treatment. Electrically charged treatments have demonstrated some effectiveness for uses including depression and Parkinson’s Disease. Static therapy magnets like a magnetic therapy bracelet are more controversial.
Magnetic Therapy Research: Most scientific studies have not found much benefit in static magnets. A significant exception is a 2001 study at the University of Virginia Health System. One brand of a magnetic sleeping pad produced significantly better pain relief compared to both a second brand and a sham product. A small 1997 study at Baylor University College of Medicine in Houston also documented reduced pain in polio patients.
Magnetic Therapy Uses and Benefits: Meanwhile, there are thousands of happy testimonials from actual users of magnet therapy who claim reduced pain and other benefits. Products include magnetic jewelry; back and joint supports and bandages for more localized applications; shoe insoles; and seat and mattress pads. Common uses include arthritis and other joint problems; migraine headaches; pain including post-surgical and chronic conditions; cancer; and strains and sprains of muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Critics may attribute all this to a placebo effect, but it doesn’t change the fact that many users experience reduced pain. Still, safe usage is important.
Magnetic Therapy Safety: WebMD advises that young children and pregnant women should not use magnetic therapy because the safety is not proven. They state that magnetic field therapy is not thought to have any negative side effects but the long-term health effects are unknown. Therapy magnets should also not be used by people with pacemakers or other medical devices or implants with a magnetic field because they could cause interference. People suffering pain are advised to see a physician first to diagnose any treatable or potentially dangerous condition. Even many proponents of magnet therapy agree that it should be approached as a supplement rather than as a substitute for conventional medical treatment. As always, tell your doctor if you are using an alternative therapy or considering combining an alternative therapy with conventional medical treatment.