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Magnet Therapy

September 21, 2010

For the general entry on Alternative Medicine, click here

The Claims:

Magnet therapy is a form of alternative medicine that claims that static magnetic fields have a variety of beneficial healing effects. This theory is based on the idea that blood is a magnetic fluid, and that interrupted blood flow can result in pain or poor health.  Hence, magnet therapy can be used to unblock the flow of blood, thus relieving pain and promoting general vitality.

Today magnets are frequently purported to have extraordinary healing powers, particularly in relieving pain and inflammation. Due to promotion by practitioners of alternative medicine and new-age healing, a host of magnet therapy related gimmicks exist on the market including magnetic jewellery, back-supports, mattresses, blankets, water, supplements, and creams.

The Evidence:

Although proponents of magnet therapy suggest that magnets interact with haemoglobin in the blood and thus have the ability to promote blood circulation, the fact is that the magnetic fields exerted by the magnets used in magnet therapy are far too weak to exert any influence on blood flow. Alternative claims include the idea that magnets affect calcium flow, the acidity or alkalinity of body fluids, hormone production, enzyme activity, electromagnetic ‘energy’ flow, and cell chromosome alignment. Notably, however, none of these speculations present scientifically plausible explanations for the mechanisms behind the supposed healing powers of magnets.

There has been relatively little scientific research conducted on the efficacy of magnet therapy. The studies that have been conducted do not demonstrate consistent evidence for the healing powers of magnets. Research on the effectiveness of magnet therapy in treating shoulder and neck pain, carpel tunnel syndrome, back pain, and fibromyalgia did not demonstrate magnet therapy to be more effective than placebo (the effect through which a patient feels subjectively better just by believing he or she is undergoing some treatment). Furthermore, a systematic review of the research literature on magnet therapy from the Journal of the American Academy of Nursing Practitioners indicates that the evidence supporting the efficacy of magnet therapy is lacking. As a result, the National Science Foundation (NSF) notes that magnet therapy is “not at all scientific”, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prohibits the use of any medical claims in the marketing of any magnetic products.

Conclusion:

The evidence indicates that magnets are not effective in the treatment of pain or any other disorder.  Magnetic therapy lacks scientific plausibility, as well as consistent evidence of its effectiveness.

Links:

Skeptic’s Dictionary Entry on Magnet Therapy

Collacott, E.A., Zimmerman, J.T., White, D.W., & Rindone, J.P.  (2000). Bipolar permanent magents for the treatment of chronic low back pain: a pilot study. JAMA, 283(1), 1322-5.

Carter, R., Aspy, C.B., & Mold, J. The effectiveness of magnet therapy for treatment of wrist pain attributed to carpel tunnel syndrome. Journal of Family Practice. 51(1), 38-40.

“Magnets”. CDRH Consumer Information. Food and Drug Administration.

Shermer, M. (October, 2002). Mesmerized by Magnetism – An 18th-century investigation into mesmerism shows us how to think about 21st-century therapeutic magnets. Scientific American.

National Science Foundation (2002). Science and Engineering Indicators – 2002.

Ratterman, R., Secrest, J., Norwood, B., & Ch’ien, A.P. (2002). Magnet therapy: what’s the attraction? Journal of the American Academy of Nursing Practitioners, 14(8), 347-53.

Stick, C., Hinkelmann, K., Eggert, P., & Wendhausen, H. (1991). “Do strong static magnetic fields in NMR tomography modify tissue perfusion?”. Nuklearmedizin 154: 326.

 

2 Comments leave one →
  1. greame permalink
    December 12, 2010 9:39 PM

    @ Crommunist.

    I get it. hahahaha.

    “A giraffe is a fucking miracle. It has a dinosaur-like neck. It’s yellow.”

  2. December 7, 2010 1:43 PM

    But according to the top researchers at the ICP Institute of Detroit, we don’t even know how magnets work! Don’t be so quick to dismiss them, you guys!

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