Magnet Therapy

I was once given some
therapeutic magnets to try for my RA pain. I wore them as instructed for
several weeks. Did they do anything for my arthritis pain? No. Does that
mean they have no therapeutic effects at all? I honestly don’t know. Enbrel,
which has been a miraculous drug for many people with RA, didn’t work for me
either. So how can I say something that didn’t work for me won’t work for
anyone? 

What is it?

The use of magnets for pain relief dates back to the days of Cleopatra.
Rumor has it that she slept on a magnet stone to prevent aging. Today sports
superstars from all over the globe can be found lauding the benefits of
magnets. Do they really use them themselves? Maybe, but many of them are
paid a tidy sum to do so.

There are several theories on how exactly magnets work to relieve pain, but
no one really knows for sure. Magnets come in different strengths, which is
measured in gauss. Refrigerator magnets are about 60 gauss, magnets sold for
pain relief range from about 300 to 4,000 gauss.

Theraputic magnets are sold in many forms, little magnets, big magnets, shoe
inserts, in braces, in wraps, mattress pads, even as jewelry. 

Do they work?

One study conducted by Dr. Carlos Vallbona at Baylor’s Institute for
Rehabilitation Research in Houston studied the effect of magnets on 50
post-polio patients. It showed that 76% of the study participants had a
significant decrease in pain after using magnets, while only 19% of those
using the fake magnets claimed improvement. 

More studies are needed; there is no proof that magnets are effective on any
type of arthritis pain. Last year the NIH Office of Alternative Medicine
gave a million-dollar grant to Dr. Ann Gill Taylor of the School of Nursing
of the University of Virginia to study the use of magnets to relieve pain.
Among other things, she will be testing the effectiveness of magnetic sleep
pads in relieving pain in patients suffering from fibromyalgia. I’m sure
many of us will be interested in the results of that study.

Where can I get them?

Just about anywhere. Drugstores and even grocery stores now carry many
different magnetic therapy products. A search engine will bring of thousands
of websites selling magnets. Be wary of anyone who claims there is
scientific proof that magnets can relieve arthritis pain, that’s simply not
true. Cost ranges from a few dollars to thousands of dollars, depending on
the product.

Are they safe?

Unless you have a pacemaker or other implanted electrical device, magnets
appear to be safe. 

References:
The Arthritis Foundation’s Guide to Alternative Medicine
Skeptical Inquirer, July/August 1998 Magnetic Therapy: Plausible Attraction?
James D. Livingston