Do Medical Magnets Have Healing Power?

Controlling Chronic Pain With Magnetic Therapy

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Alternative practitioners have long said YES, and some studies suggest that they may be right.

In a study published in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, researchers at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston found magnets to be more effective than sham magnets at blocking pain caused by post-polio syndrome. (This syndrome, marked by leg pain, affects up to 20% of polio sufferers later in life.)

In the controlled study, 76% of patients treated with a magnet got pain relief.

Only 18% treated with a sham magnet got relief.

Growing Body of Evidence Suggests Magnet Therapy Works

In other studies, magnets have proven effective against:

  • - Researchers at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston showed that magnets help relieve muscle pain caused by this mysterious condition.
    • In the study, patients who slept on magnetic mattresses experienced greater pain relief than patients who slept on ordinary mattresses.
  • - In research conducted at New Your Medical College of Valhalla, magnetic foot pads were more effective than nonmagnetic foot pads at relieving numbness, tingling and pain associated with this diabetes-related problem. Evidence suggests that roughly 80% of chronic pain sufferers could benefit form magnetic therapy. That is true for virtually any form of pain.

How Magnets Relieve Pain

When held against the skin, magnets relax capillary walls, thereby boosting blood flow to the painful area.

They also help prevent the muscle spasms that underlie many forms of pain-apparently by interfering with muscle contractions. And, they interfere with the electrochemical reactions that take place within nerve cells, impeding their ability to transmit pain messages to the brain.

Of course, chronic pain can be controlled with aspirin and other over-the-counter and prescription painkillers.

But unlike pain medications, magnets do not carry any risk of side effects.

Selecting Medical Magnets

Medical magnets come in a dizzying range of shapes, sizes and strengths. They range in price from about $5 all the way to $900.

It is usually best to start with one or more coin-shaped magnets made of the rare earth metal neodymium-boron. For most applications, these "neo" magnets work just as well as-and cost less than-other magnets.

Magnetism is measured in gauss. A typical refrigerator magnet is about 10 gauss. That is too weak to penetrate the skin-and unlikely to be helpful for anything more than a minor bruise.

Medical magnets range in strength from 450 gauss to 10,000 gauss. The higher the gauss, the better the pain relief.

Putting Magnets to Work

The magnet should be affixed to the skin directly over the painful area. Some people use ordinary adhesive bandages to affix the magnets. But Transpore, a paper tape made by 3M, works better. It holds well, and it doesn't pull the hairs from the skin when it is removed.

If the magnet fails to provide relief within a few days, reposition the magnet over the nearest acupuncture point. To locate these points on the body, consult a book on acupuncture.

If repositioning the magnet fails to bring relief within 30 days, odds are it's not going to work. Switch to another type of magnet or speak with your doctor about using pain killing medication or another conventional approach.

  1. Aching Feet - Magnetic insoles can relieve foot pain and the achy feelings in the legs after you've been standing all day.
  2. Arthritis - If pain is limited to your fingers, a neo magnet taped to the affected joint should do the trick. Or, you can wear a magnetic wrist band.
  3. Back Pain - Place four magnets about 1.5" on either side of the spine, two per side. If applying and removing several magnets proves troublesome, use a three to four inch ceramic strip magnet or a magnetic back brace.
  4. Headache - Tape magnets to your temples or to the back of your head, just above the neck. Or-use a magnetic headband.
  1. Tennis Elbow - Use a magnetic band around the elbow. The same band also relieves hand and arm pain caused by repetitive strain injury.

About this Contributor: Ron Lawrence, MD. is the President of the North American Academy of Magnetic Therapy and co-author of Magnet Therapy - The Pain Cure Alternative.