Magnet therapy: does it really work?

You can't open a catalog, womens' magazine, sports journal or­­ as of late­­ medical newsletters and journals without reading about magnets! What's the deal? Do they really work and who started this latest craze?

Well, magnet therapy is not new. Proponents point to the ancient Egyptians and Chinese who used magnets for healing. Magnet therapy has been very popular in Japan and Korea over the past 20-or-so years and are used as medical devices. Personally, I think the growing interest here in the U.S. in magnet therapy is another barometer of the grass roots movement in medicine shifting from doctor-directed care to self care and patient responsibility.

So, do they work? Well, from what I can see with my own large client base, the answer is a very definite yes. But let's see who else is talking about magnet therapy. Andrew Wiel MD, lecturer and author of several books, including 8 Weeks To Optimal Health, writes in his monthly newsletter that recent studies indicate positive results for people suffering with fibromyalgia, including reduced pain and better range of motion in stiff sore joints.

One of the rare, reputable studies of magnetic therapy was reported by Baylor College of Medicine researchers in November 1997. At the post-polio clinic at Baylor's Institute of Rehabilitation Research, doctors used magnets to treat people who had chronic muscular or arthritis-like pain years after having had polio. A double blind study of 50 patients, half with placebo magnets, half with medical magnets strong enough to effect change were used. The subjects self-evaluated their pain on a 0 to 10 scale, with 10 being the worst pain.

After the treatment, those using the medical magnets reported that their pain levels had declined 4.4 points. Those treated with placebos experienced much less improvement­­ averaging only 1.1 points.

How do they work? There is no shortage of hypotheses; one popular theory is that magnets create a slight electrical current within the body that interferes with pain sensations. Another popular theory is that since magnets have positive and negative polls, they have the ability to draw blood supply and much needed electrically charged mineral particles into the area for healing. Whatever the theory, even my most skeptical of clients that I have offered magnets to have been nicely surprised by the pain relief the magnets seem to afford them.

If you want to self-administer magnet therapy, you need not spend a whole lot of money­­ although you certainly can. While a coin-sized magnet may cost $15-20, you can spend much more­­ like $150 for various pieces of jewelry, back rollers $150-200, mattress pads from $400-1200.

On the other hand, your average magnet holding phone messages is simply not strong enough to relieve pain or support healing. A medical magnet should range any where from 400-800 gauss. Gauss is the scientific measurement of a magnet's strength.

It is also important how the magnet is placed on the body. In conventionally-made magnets, the magnet will have a north and south pole. The north pole needs to be placed down or next to the skin, otherwise the magnet will not be effective in relieving pain.

Sound spooky, stupid? Well, ask around. You may very well find several people you know using magnets to relieve some kind of pain and discomfort. They are simple non-invasive devices that have no side effects. Sounds better that aspirin to me!

Till next time, Rebecca.

Posted to Zephyr Online December 3, 1998
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