Something to Think About

"I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love."
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

What is the Attraction of Magnet Therapy?

[Yes.  I should be ashamed of myself for using that title but I couldn't resist!]

Every now and then I will come across an ad - usually in the back of a magazine - for magnetic bracelets which are supposed to help relieve pain. Of course I never thought that they would help.  After all, if you are selling something in the back of a magazine, it is probably not a high-end product.

Still, I did wonder if there was anything to magnet therapy at all so I did a little research.

What follows is the information I was able to find.

What is it?  Magnetic therapy involves applying magnets to various parts of the body (or wearing them) to create magnetic fields.  This is supposed to stimulate blood flow which is supposed to help relieve pain and/or help heal the body.  It is supposed to help relieve the pain of arthritis, headaches, and stress.  It is also supposed to heal broken bones, improve circulation, and cure cancer.

Does it work?  Despite the number of people who seem to believe that it does, I could find no reason to believe that this is an effective therapy based on scientific evidence. It seems like the placebo effect might have something to do with any positive results that people have.  One telling piece of information is that some websites selling magnetic bracelets tell you that they "wear out" after a couple of years so you need to buy a new one.  Well, of course they'd say that to keep you coming back for a new one periodically! Yes, magnets do wear out over time but I would think that a "high quality" magnet wouldn't wear out in a mere 2 years!

Have there been scientific studies of Magnet Therapy? Yes.  This 1997 study, this study from 2001, and this 2003 study all concluded that magnet therapy was not effective in treating pain.

Is it dangerous? I would imagine it is not dangerous to wear magnets or to have them around you under most circumstances, so no.  I don't think this is dangerous.  Neither does the American Cancer society - nor do they think it is effective.  [Although, it should be noted that Wile E. Coyote had a bad experience with a magnet in Compressed Hare - the magnet part begins around the 4:24 minute mark.  But I digress...]

What sort of training does a Magnetic Practioner go through? It appears that one can become a "certified" therapist though a home study course for around $1000 but I'm not sure what they do.  Most magnetic therapy seems to involve buying magnetic products to use, not visiting a therapist. I did see something called pulsed magnetic field therapy involving some sort of pad a patient would lay on for a period of time so perhaps a trained therapist would be involved in that sort of thing.

What does treatment cost? I'm unable to provide a dollar amount for seeing a practioner as there don't appear to be any in my area of the country. You can buy products containing magnets online, however.  This website sells everything from shoe insoles to jewelry to mattress pads.  Bracelets can be as cheap as $18 while a mattress pad can cost you nearly $550.  It looks like you could spend quite a bit of money on different items.

Conclusion:  This type of "therapy" seems to be very good at lining someone's pockets but there is no reason to believe that magnets will heal you or relieve your pain.  Save your money and use it to visit your physician.

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