Yet another study indicating that “magnet therapy” is bullshit.

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.

10 thoughts on “Yet another study indicating that “magnet therapy” is bullshit.

  1. I had cervical spine surgery last year because of pain issues etc., and I just had an MRI exam last Friday to check on the progress of my neck.

    An MRI machine generates a big, BIG magnetic field to create images of your innards, and when I was lying on that slab during the exam I had pain before, during, and after which can be traced to the problems in my neck area.

    I have my doubts that a little dime store magnetic bracelet is going to ease anybody’s pain.

  2. Having taken apart a few old hard drives, I have a ready supply of very high coercivity neodynium/cobalt/boron magnets to play with.  (fun!)  Could I treat pain by sewing them into my shirtsleeves?  Or would that just make it harder for MrsDOF to get my clothes out of the dryer?  (which would sharply increase pain!)  Not to mention sticking to people’s desks when I go to their offices.

    I’m surprised someone hasn’t tried marketing magnetic, uh, “personal toys” to treat certain dysfunctions.  They could make a bundle. wink

  3. DoF, the image you’ve created here, of the “magnetic shirt,” is priceless.  I can just imagine you handing someone a stack of papers, and ending up with a few loose paperclips flying through the air and sticking to your sleeeves.  Or opening your car door, and having your shirt tail stick to it as you’re trying to get into the car,  or. . .

    OK, I’ll quit here, but that is a damn funny mental picture!  LOL

  4. Ever just watch yourself be a moron? I got a bad case of tennis elbow a few months back (from straightbar curls, not tennis!), and after a shitload of ibuprofen and no results, I decided to get an armband brace. So, like it cost 5 bucks more to get one with magnets in it. I caved. I just couldn’t help it. And I’m even trained in medicine!

    I guess I figured if I’ll spend 7 bucks for 40 minutes of wireless internet in the airport, I can throw away five on some spooky magnetic arm brace in the pursuit of some magical relief.

    I’ll just add, none of it helped one god damned bit. The condition is just now resolving after three months, all by itself – slowly.

    Hey, at least I’m choosing to be an irrational dumbass, which is almost, well, rational. I say “He that is without irrationality among you, … etc.” What about taking all kinda vitamins, or the college student lettuce and ice cream diet, or bearing children in birthing tanks to decrease the trauma of birth and then neglecting them for the coupla years of life, or a diet coke with those quarter pounders, or you’ll get a cold without a sweater, or then the whole world of “probability neglect” – like being terrified a bridge will collapse or you’ll get HIV from a toilet seat or terrorists are waiting for you in the driveway … blah blah …

    So, anyway, I’m CERTAIN that magnets are best for the applications described in the preceding comments BUT weirder things than magnets and blood iron content do seem to be true, as my colleague Dan Oren demonstrated:

    Oren and Terman, BIOLOGICAL RHYTHMS: Enhanced: Tweaking the Human Circadian Clock with Light, Science 1998 279: 333-334

    Light to the back of the knees can alter your body clock, because hemoglobin has a similar structure to chlorophyll and is thus light reactive. I wouldn’ta put any money on that one myself!

  5. Hey, I LIKE diet Coke with my Quarter Pounder and fries.  I like the taste, and at least cutting out the real Coke saves a FEW calories … (thereby saving them for the “frozen confection” dessert!)

    Diet Coke and cold pizza (aka “Italian Cheese Toast”) is the perfect breakfast.


  6. I like it too! (same ingredients as a battery – what’s not to love?), especially with my morning cold pizza – I mean I hope no one would argue with THAT!  But with my 2 QPC’s and large fries I usually go with the medium chocolate shake (gonna go get that whole combo in about five minutes as a matter of fact) – and then of course, I forgo the “frozen confection” (ingredients unclear). Of course, that whole approach is why I’m in the gym injuring myself to begin with! There must be a better way … nah.

    Oh, btw, I eat a lot of red meat. I figure I’m gonna let some other guy get mad cow dz first, and then I’ll quit. That’s the only rational thing to do. And, if I get it first in the country, well, you know, them’s the breaks, and besides, the red meat will probably have shut off all my arteries by then anyway. Especially the ones to my head – which, come to think of it, there seems to be some evidence is well underway already, at least by the sounds of it here!

  7. You’re making me want to get McDonald’s….  Mmmmm, quarter pounder with cheese…..  Actually the dumbest holistic medicine thing I’ve seen lately is “Dr.” Lorraine Day’s barley green treatment for cancer.  I also heard someone talking about eating apricot kernels to get “vitamin B17” which will also cure cancer.  Where do these people get this crazy stuff?

  8. The problem is, they’re just not using a powerful enough magnet.  With emerging breakthroughs in nano-technology we may one day be able to have ‘magnetar’ bracelets that cure everything from cancer to the common cold.

    It casts enough magnetic force to slow a locomotive from a quarter-million miles away—the distance of the Earth from the moon. The “magnetar,” or magnetic neutron star known as Soft Gamma Repeater 1806-20, is the most powerful known magnetic object in the universe. Only 10 of these unusual objects have been discovered. With a magnetic-field strength of 100 billion teslas, it dwarfs that of the Earth, whose magnetic field measures just 0.00005 tesla. While it’s unlikely anything man-made will ever come close to the power of a magnetar, it’s not for lack of trying. For reasons that range from the basic “What if?” of pure science to the need to improve medical imaging devices, tremendous efforts are under way to develop more powerful magnets.

    Researchers at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory (NHMFL) in Tallahassee, Fla., currently hold the record with a hybrid magnet system they put into operation in December 1999. Weighing 34 tons and standing 22 ft. tall, it has a magnetic field of 45 teslas, about a million times more powerful than the Earth’s magnetic field. That’s enough to make conventional electronic and magnetic materials behave very differently than they do normally.

    Or…we could pursue something of actual medicinal value and use the magnets to play with the cat.

  9. about a million times more powerful than the Earth’s magnetic field.

    Wonder if that’d jack with the earth’s field…

    DOF, just think of the distortion as you walk by CRTs.  Found that one out when I put together an external speaker for my 13” tv, and set it on top of the tv one time.

    Could always drop one in the CRT cabinet by the tube if you need an upgrade.  Or just stick it in one of the nooks on the bottom with poster putty.

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