Magnet therapy: Can it relieve pain?

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Magnet therapy: Can it relieve pain?

Question

Can magnet therapy relieve chronic pain? I have back pain, and I'm thinking about buying a magnetic mattress pad.

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Answer

There's no definitive evidence that magnet therapy relieves pain. However, anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that some people do experience some pain relief from magnet therapy.

Many theories have been proposed as to why magnet therapy may relieve pain. But none of these theories has been scientifically proved. Clinical trials involving magnet therapy have produced conflicting results. Some suggest effective pain relief from magnets, and others report no effect.

The vast majority of magnets marketed to consumers to treat pain are of a type called static magnets, because the resulting magnetic fields are unchanging. The other magnets used for health purposes are called electromagnets, because they generate magnetic fields only when electrical current flows through them. Currently, electromagnets are used primarily under the supervision of a doctor or in clinical trials.

Static magnets come in various strengths. Examples of products containing magnets include shoe insoles, heel inserts, mattress pads, belts and bracelets. Some of these products can be quite expensive.

Additional, larger and higher quality studies are needed to determine what role, if any, magnet therapy may play in pain relief. In the meantime, it is reasonable to say that some people appear to get some benefit from magnet therapy — although this may be in part to a placebo effect. Also, no significant adverse effects have been reported with magnet therapy.

Bottom line: You must decide how much money you want to spend on a treatment that may or may not help but probably won't do any harm.

Last Updated: 07/13/2006
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