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Magnet Therapy: Does It Really Relieve Pain?

New research on magnet therapy for pain relief shows it may actually help.


Updated July 21, 2006

The quest for effective treatment for chronic pain is one that has kept many medical researchers busy and keeps many of those suffering from it with empty wallets. One of the most popular therapies for pain to come along in the last few years is the treatment of pain with magnets.

Magnets have been touted as therapy for everything from low back pain to the next best cure for cancer. As of this time the FDA has approved no magnet therapy for any condition. The FDA actively monitors those marketing magnets to ensure that no company marketing magnets is making claims for cures that have not been proven. This is a huge task as the number of companies marketing these devices grows every day. As I was researching this feature a search for magnets on the search engine Google came up with thousands of different pages on the Internet. These results show the intense interest people have in this therapy. This interest can also leave the door wide open for fraud and abuse of people who are desperate to find pain relief.

While many people have made claims that magnet therapy has helped to relief pain, these reports are for the most part anecdotal or unscientific reports. There has however been a lot of interest in magnets for pain therapy from the scientific community.

A study reported in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine studied the effect of magnet therapy on fibromyalgia pain. Although the results of the study were inconclusive, magnet therapy reduced fibromyalgia pain intensity enough in one group of study participants to be "clinically meaningful" the researchers said.

This study, conducted by researchers at the University of Virginia studied results from 94 patients who suffered from fibromyalgia who were randomly divided into 4 groups. Half of these patients were in 2 control groups, one that received fake magnets and the other that just followed their usual treatment routine. The other 2 groups received active magnetic pads; one which provided whole body exposure to a uniform magnetic field and the other group used a pad which exposed the subjects to a magnetic field that varied both spatially and in polarity. The study tracked results over a six month periods.

The two groups that slept on pads with active magnets generally showed improvement in outcome scores of pain intensity level, number of tender points on the body and functional status at the end of the six month period of the test. The subjects in the control group did not exhibit the same type of improvement in their symptoms.

Researchers expressed surprise that they saw positive results from the study virtually nothing known as to how magnets work to relieve pain. They do feel that in light of the results from this study that more research on magnet therapy for pain is justified.

SOURCES: Study on Application of Static Magnetic Field for Adjuvant Arthritis Rats Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine , July 21, 2004.

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