MAGNET THERAPY Overview Information
Magnet therapy involves applying a magnet to the skin or close to the skin to improve a condition such as pain.
The strength of magnets is described in terms of “gauss” or “Tesla.” A Tesla is equivalent to 10,000 gauss. Magnets used for treatment usually have a higher magnetic strength than typical refrigerator-type magnets. Therapeutic magnets are most often in the range of 200-10,000 gauss. Typical household magnets are typically around 200 gauss.
People wear magnets to treat painful conditions including general pain, pain after surgery, low back pain, foot pain, heel pain, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), carpel tunnel syndrome, painful menstrual periods, nerve pain caused by diabetes (diabetic neuropathy), sports injuries, and migraine headache.
Magnets are also worn for treating water retention, wounds, male sexual performance problems (erectile dysfunction, ED), trouble sleeping (insomnia), ringing in the ears (tinnitus), cancer, multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), epilepsy, trouble controlling urination (incontinence), and many other conditions.
Magnet therapy is a big business. Worldwide sales of magnets for treatment is estimated at over $5 billion annually. In the US the market is about $500 million.
How does it work?
There is interest in magnet therapy for medical conditions due to the variety of electromagnetic fields that naturally occur within the body. For example, nervous system transmissions and related muscle contractions are associated with magnetic activity. The heart generates the largest magnetic field in the body. Several other activities in the body are associated with magnetic activity.
At one time it was thought that abnormal magnetic fields in the body might result in certain disease states and that magnets could play a role in making these magnetic fields normal again.
You may hear that magnets attract the iron in red blood cells, resulting in increased circulation. But this is wrong. The iron in blood cells is not in a magnetic form. However, magnets, in theory, could have an effect on other charged molecules in the blood and other parts of the body.
There isn’t enough information to know exactly how magnets might work in the body to treat disease or pain.
Possibly Effective for:
- Nerve pain caused by diabetes (diabetic neuropathy). Wearing a shoe insole containing a particular strength (450 gauss) magnet seems to significantly reduce symptoms of burning, numbness, tingling, and foot pain caused by exercise. It takes about 3-4 months of treatment to see the benefit.
- Osteoarthritis. Wearing a magnetic bracelet of a particular strength (170-200 Tesla) for 12 weeks significantly improves pain related to osteoarthritis of the knee or hip. Wearing a magnet in a knee sleeve for 4 hours also reduces osteoarthritis-related knee pain. Other research also shows that exposure to a weak magnetic field for 48 minutes per treatment, with 8 treatments over 2 weeks, reduces knee pain significantly.
Possibly Ineffective for:
- Foot or heel pain. Some clinical research shows that wearing a specific shoe insole containing a bipolar magnet (2450 gauss) for at least 4 hours daily and for at least 30 days does not significantly reduce foot pain or heel pain.
- Pain after surgery. Placing a magnet over a surgical wound in the recovery period while anesthesia is wearing off does not significantly reduce pain or the need to use narcotic pain-killing medications.
- Muscle soreness caused by exercise. Early research suggests that applying a particular strength (350 gauss) magnet for 45 minutes per day for 5 days after vigorous exercise of elbow area muscles does not significantly reduce muscle soreness.
- Low back pain. Research shows that a particular strength (400 gauss) magnet applied to the back for 6 hours per day, 3 days per week for one week, followed by a one-week period without magnets and then repeated, does not significantly reduce chronic low back pain.
- Increasing muscle strength. Developing research suggests that particular strength (700 gauss) magnets do not significantly increase hand muscle strength.
- Improving wound healing after surgery. There is some evidence that placing magnets in the form of patches over cosmetic surgical wounds might reduce pain, water retention, and discoloration.
- Rheumatoid arthritis.
- Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
- Carpel tunnel syndrome.
- Painful menstruation.
- Migraine headache.
- Male sexual performance problems (erectile dysfunction, ED).
- Trouble sleeping (insomnia).
- Sports injuries.
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus).
- Multiple sclerosis (MS).
- Parkinson’s disease.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Trouble controlling urination (incontinence).
- Other conditions.
MAGNET THERAPY Side Effects & Safety
Most magnets seem to be safe for most people. In scientific studies, some side effects have been reported including painful menstrual periods, heavier menstrual periods, nausea, diarrhea, and a feeling of “fuzzy headedness.” However, it is unclear whether these side effects are caused by the magnet therapy.
In some cases magnets are taped to the body. Some tapes can be irritating to the skin, resulting in redness, itching, and discomfort.
Special Precautions & Warnings:Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the use of magnet therapy during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Epilepsy: There has been some concern that magnet therapy might make people with epilepsy have more seizures. However, there is no reliable evidence to support this. Nevertheless, if you have epilepsy, use caution if you choose to try magnet therapy.
Pacemaker or implantable defibrillator: If you have a pacemaker or implantable defibrillator, use magnets cautiously. Magnetic mattresses might interfere with these devices and make them work incorrectly. Most other magnets seem to be safe if not placed within 6 inches of the device.