Does Magnetic Therapy Work?

By: John Morris

Magnetic field therapy is one of several alternatives to conventional medicine that uses magnets for health maintenance and treating disorders. The approach has already become highly popular recourse for pain relief and healing, generating over $5 billion in sales on magnets and related products. The non-invasive therapy assumes that emotional and physical changes in human beings flow from the interaction of the body and the earth - both are natural sources of magnetic and electric fields. In addition, magnetic therapy assumes that good health is maintained when a person's electromagnetic field is in balance.

1. History

The view that magnets offer medicinal benefits go back to Ancient Greece, with believers surging in the Middle Ages - 15th-century alchemist Paracelsus was a proponent of the idea that iron's attraction to magnets could be extended to diseases.

- Magnetic therapy is an external treatment
- Magnets deliver an electrical pulse to the affected body part
- Magnets are combined with acupuncture needles

2. Conditions Treated

- Arthritis
- Other joint problems
- Migraines
- Post-surgery pain
- Chronic pain
- Injured or overstretched muscles, tendons and ligaments
- Cancer
- Depression

3. Does It Work?

Although magnetic therapy does not show any adverse side effects when applied with traditional medical practice, the treatment is not advised for small children and pregnant women because studies into its safety and touted effects have remained mixed or not highly conclusive. Patients with pacemakers and other implanted devices should also avoid this treatment, as magnetic fields may affect device functions. Despite the absence of strong evidence on their health benefits, different magnets and magnet products continue to be a strong consumer item. Among the more popular items are magnet wraps for knees and other body parts, magnetic pads and mattresses, magnetic jewelry, and magnetic shoe inserts.

4. Real Use Of Magnets In Medicine!

Some of today's current mainstream practices involve magnets, particularly magnetic resonance imaging. Magnetic pulse fields are now developing as a factor in treating Parkinson's disease. The belief is that blood flow and circulation in the magnetized area is enhanced as iron in the blood is drawn by the magnets. Overall, most health experts and analysts still advise a physician-guided comprehensive examination and treatment for many conditions.

Among studies that found evidence of a positive health effect is one presented during the American Association of Electrodiagnostic Medicine's 51st Annual Scientific Meeting in early November 2004. The study established that repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation in stroke patients enhanced motor and brain function and helped hasten recovery. The process involves passing electric current through an insulater wire coil, leading to a magnetic pulse that stimulates the cortex and either affects reflexes or makes a hand, arm or muscle twitch.

5. Factors Against

On the other hand, a study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that the use of bipolar magnets failed to relieve patients having chronic low back pain. Dr Edward Collacott, the lead author and VA Medical center physical medicine and rehabilitation medical director, emphasized that he is not ready to concede that magnet therapy does not work despite the result. Some experts share the view, adding that more research must be pursued before any definitive stand on the therapy is made.

One factor negating acceptance or a positive attitude towards magnet therapy is the proliferation of some sham products claiming health gains from magnet use. Among these products are MagnaSlim, which reportedly relieves stress and helps an affected individual avoid overeating as magnets and a special magnetized solution are set at certain acupuncture points on the body. This set-up was said to renegenerate one's life force energy, or chi, boost cell function and make a person more strong-willed in eating healthy.

These divergent findings highlight the need for more extensive research into magnetic therapy. The University of Virginia's Dr. Ann Gill Taylor has received a grant of more than $1 million from the National Institute of Health's Alternative Medicine office to pursue research into the impact of magnets on chronic pain. Similar efforts are being undertaken by Baylor College of Medicine, John Hopkins, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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