Researchers at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City decided to find out if there was anything to back up the claims made by magnet therapy advocates that wearing magnets helped to alleviate pain. The popular theory is that magnets somehow increase blood flow to an afflicted area or block nerve impulses that carry pain information and that’s why wearing them helps, but the results of experiments by Dr. David W. Garrison indicate that there is no significant physiological difference brought about by wearing magnets.
A U.S. investigator found that magnets did not appear to affect the nerve fibers that transmit information about touch to the spinal cord, which tend to be much more sensitive to stimulation than the nerves that transmit pain signals.
So if these highly sensitive touch nerves aren’t affected by magnets, “it would be a miracle” if magnets could influence the less sensitive pain nerves, Dr. David W. Garrison told Reuters Health.
These results, which appear in the American Journal of Pain Management, suggest that it would be “seemingly farfetched that (magnets) are doing something to alleviate pain,” he said.
The good Dr. goes on to mention that any perceived benefit wearers may feel they get from magnets is most likely our old friend the Placebo Effect once again coming into play. Though he also mentioned that it’s possible some real pain relief could be the result of “gating.”
When people feel pain in their wrists from carpal tunnel syndrome, the researcher explained, nerve cells are sending that pain information to the spinal cord. However, if people wear a bracelet that contains a magnet to ease the pain, the pressure from the bracelet will activate other nerves that transmit information about touch to the spinal cord, and these nerves will start to compete with the pain nerve signals, limiting the amount of pain information reaching the brain.
This theory also helps explain why rubbing a painful spot can often make it feel better, Garrison added.
Which makes a hell of a lot more sense than the idea that magnets increase blood flow because of the iron present in the blood.