A new and ever increasingly popular method of treating a myriad of diseases is magnetic therapy. I have included a section on it because of reader interest, questions and a simple desire to bring as much information as I can to those with lymphedema.
I must admit however, I was a skeptic before research and I am still unconvinced that the use of magnetic fields, magnetic polarities etc has any real medical value. In presenting the articles that follow, the reader is free to form their own conclusions.
What bothers me the most is the lack of solid double blind clinical studies that will substantiate evidence that this type of therapy actually works. The one done at Baylor University is itself, clouded in controversy. I have found not concrete evidence that it improves lymphatic flow, resolves lymphatic blockages, reverses fibrosis of subcutaneous tissues or prevents any of the other complications associated with lymphedema.
Not long ago, a member of an online support group proudly announce she was going to buy a magnetic bracelet because she had heard it would help lymphedema. Her reasons were three fold. First, she felt, as a patient she was "taking control" of her medical condition, Secondly, she was giving a black-eye to the terrible world of evidence based medicine by seeking a treatment outside their dark domain and finally, she felt this would be a repudiation to those monster "big-money" pharmaceutical companies.
How sad, I thought that this person, any person would place their health in danger to pursue such a dangerous course. It is estimated by now that magnetic sales are reaching a half billion dollar mark in the US alone. To me that equals big money, especially since it comes at the expense of the health of so many desperate people seeking effective treatment for their medical condition. Also, every bit of information we have learned about the lymph system, lymphedema and such comes directly from this "terrible" world of evidence based medicine and its research.
more important is that we once and
for all need to recognize that there is no magic bullet, no magic pill,
cure for lymphedema. Indeed, if there were, we would all be
lined up to
buy it. There simply is no replacement at the present time
for a treatment
protocol of manual
decongestive therapy, compression
garments and a compliant patient who is willing to take the
for proper management...a patient who does so because they as a person
However, please do not abandon your physician or your lymphedema therapist to undergo this therapy. This is not meant to take their place.
As of today's update, there is still no clinical evidence to support the claim the magnetic therapy is of any value to lymphedema patients. Therefore, I simply can not recommend this therapy to anyone.
Disclaimer: This is presented for information only. Inclusion does not constitute an endorsement of the therapies and/or treatment. Individuals should consult with their physicians as to its applicability in their personal situation.
What is Magnetic Therapy ?
During the past few years, magnetic devices have been claimed to relieve pain and to have therapeutic value against a large number of diseases and conditions but what is the scientific evidence ?
Pulsed electromagnetic fields -- which induce measurable electric fields -- have been demonstrated effective for treating slow-healing fractures and have shown promise for a number of other conditions. However, few studies have been published on the effect on pain of small, static magnets marketed to consumers
Pulsed electromagnetic field therapy has also been evaluated in the treatment of soft tissue injuries, with the results of some studies providing evidence that this form of therapy may be of value in promoting healing of chronic wounds (such as bedsores), in neuronal regeneration, and in many other soft tissue injuries.
Different Types of Magnets
Both ferrite and rare-earth magnets, unlike earlier magnetic materials such as steel, have great resistance to demagnetization, allowing thin disks to be magnetized. This feature allows modern magnets to be mounted in a variety of thin products that can be applied to the body with the magnetic field emanating from the surface.
By Ray Cralle, RPT
A new tool is available to patients and rehabilitation specialists in the United States, thanks to the growing demands of alternative medicine.
Most everyone today is aware of some of the changes in medicine, especially as it relates to finding cost-effective means of providing care and treating ailments. Clinicians in this country found "magnetic therapy" a reimbursable medical expense in Germany, Israel, Japan and forty-five other countries and became intrigued with its possibilities for American health care.
Early manufacturers produced the familiar magnet with north and south poles, but growing numbers of investigators have realized the importance of using only one pole (usually north or negative). This allows for a much stronger magnetic field to be placed against the area of pain, which research seems to indicate the need for, especially in chronic pain or overuse symptoms.
The Office of Alternative Medicine of the National Institute of Health in Washington, D.C., has just awarded over a million dollar grant to Ann Gill Taylor, RN, Ph.D. at the University of Virginia, to study the effects of magnets in chronic pain. Dr. Gill Joins a list of doctors and scientists currently interested in this European phenomenon. Prestigious centers such as John Hopkins, Baylor College of Medicine and Massachusetts Institute of Technology are studying magnetic therapy.
I first heard of magnets when a longtime friend and hospital director asked me to go to Dublin, Ireland in 1993 to meet Austin Darragh. MD, a world renowned researcher, who had been using magnets to treat pain. The joy of finding something so simple, yet so effective in helping people relieve pain still fascinates me.
I have practiced for over twenty-four years and have never been as impressed by a technology so simple and effective in helping arthritis, back pain and even fibromyalgia (chronic fatigue). Just to name a few, as safely and cost-effectively as unipole (negative) magnets.
I am convinced that it will soon be commonplace to treat headaches, sports injuries and even allergies with magnets, and that managed care will find it on the top of its list of worthwhile expenses.
Ray Cralle, RPT is a registered physical therapist at Cralle Physical Therapy Services.
Source: The Senior News, April, 1997
What is magnetic therapy?
Magnetic therapy is a safe, non-invasive method of applying magnetic fields to the body for therapeutic purposes. It helps to speed the healing process and improve quality of sleep without any adverse side effects. Whether used independently or as an adjunct to your current treatment, magnetic therapy is very effective for the relief of discomfort due to joint and muscle pain, inflammation, and stiffness, making it an excellent choice for everyone.
Over the centuries, it has been well documented that many cultures, including the ancient Chinese, Greeks and Egyptians, have applied magnets to relieve pain and other symptoms. However, the size and weight of the magnets existing during that time, made them difficult to use. Today, smaller and stronger magnetic materials have led to the application of modern day magnetic therapy products used by over 120 million people worldwide.
Clinical studies in the United States have shown magnetic therapy to be an effective method for relieving pain and discomfort. Japan and many eastern European countries have conducted studies for over 30 years, and researchers continue to find that it provides tremendous benefits for a wide range of conditions. Physicians in the United States using magnetic therapy in their practices have reported many case histories showing positive benefits for their patients as well.
How does magnetic therapy work?
All physical and mental functions are controlled by electromagnetic fields produced by the movement of electro-chemicals (ions) within the body. When an injury occurs and tissue is damaged, positively charged ions move to the affected area, causing pain and swelling. In order for healing to take place, the injured site must be restored to its natural negative electromagnetic charge. Pain and inflammatory-related electro-chemicals must be removed and oxygen and nutrients transferred to the area.
The application of a magnetic field to an injured area helps restore the normal electromagnetic balance. The magnetic field relaxes capillary walls, as well as surrounding muscle and connective tissues, allowing for increased blood flow. More oxygen and nutrients are transferred to the injury site, while pain and inflammatory-related electro-chemicals are more efficiently removed. The overall process restores the normal electromagnetic balance of the area, relieving pain and inflammation, and promoting accelerated healing.
Individual response time will vary, and can range from a few minutes, to a few weeks. The effectiveness of magnetic therapy is dependent upon using the correct magnetic products, the length of time they are applied, and the type and severity of the problem.
Is magnetic therapy safe?
Yes, magnetic therapy is safe. No complications have ever been reported with its proper use. Magnetic therapy products use magnets that when applied to the body, have positive therapeutic benefits.
There are certain conditions where magnet therapy should not be used. Magnetic therapy should not be used if you are wearing a pacemaker, defibrillator, insulin pump or any other implanted electro-medical device, and should not be used if you are pregnant.
Do magnetic therapy products generate the same magnetic fields as power lines and other electrical devices?
The electromagnetic fields surrounding power lines and electrical appliances are a very different type of magnetic field, and have no relation to the natural, healing fields produced by Therion's magnetic products.
How effective can magnetic therapy be?
According to most experts in the field, if magnetic therapy products are designed and used properly they can be 80%-90% effective. The problem is that Biomagnetics is a far more complex science than most people realize, so knowing how to accomplish this is no easy task and requires highly specialized engineering and manufacturing capabilities.
What determines the effectiveness of a magnetic therapy product?
To be effective, a magnetic therapy product must produce a magnetic field of sufficient strength and size at the site of the injury or affected area. The problem is that the strength of a magnetic field drops off rapidly as the distance from the magnet increases, and an injured area can be several inches below the surface of the skin. If the product is not properly designed, the field could easily drop below therapeutic levels before it even reaches the injury site, and the product would then be ineffective.
Companies that provide insufficient product information, and incorrectly use the gauss rating of magnets to indicate the strength of their products compound the problem. The manufacturer's gauss rating of a magnet indicates the amount of magnetic energy (residual induction) that the magnetic material can hold, but alone is not an indication of the strength of the magnet.
Since the gauss rating is identical for all magnets made of the same material, regardless of the size or number of magnets, products using smaller and fewer numbers of magnets are made to appear more effective than they really are.
To be therapeutically effective, a magnetic field must penetrate the injured area at a high enough gauss strength. There is no way to tell if the magnetic field is strong enough just by knowing the gauss rating of the magnets.
The mass (surface area and thickness) of the magnets, the number of magnets, the polarity facing the body and the gauss rating of the magnets used, all determine the strength and penetration depth of the magnetic field produced by a magnetic therapy product.
Magnetic Therapy - General health Information
This page contain an extensive number of links to other articles
Doctors, Psychiatrists Turning to Magnets
Drug Addiction and the Brain
Magnetic Field Therapy: Professional and Personal Observations
By Dr. Edward Friedler, MD
I use magnetic products and I recommend magnetic products to my patients. I sponsored an introductory lecture on Magnetic Field Therapy to other family physicians. Is this professional heresy, or open mindedness with the interest of my patients coming first.
My formal training in Family Practice required exposure to all the traditional medical and surgical specialties. A family physician must have a wide array of management options for his or her patients. In spite of years of training and clinical experience, it is unfortunately not unusual for my "bay of tricks " to be unsatisfactory or empty! Because it is anathema for me to tell patients "There is nothing more I can do for you," I have referred some to chiropractors and not discouraged others seeking help through other "alternative" providers. And now, I am one too!
I use magnetic products for a variety of ailments. Because I see people in the setting of a medical office, there is an expectation that any treatment is recommended after a working diagnosis is made. In other words, I listen to and examine my patients and get appropriate lab information and x-rays first. Once the data is collected and considered and a working diagnosis made, I then organized a discussion on treatment options. For the person complaining of fatigue, I treat anemia with iron and vitamins, not a magnet. For a person with achy legs and low potassium, I treat with potassium, not a magnet. Yet there are times when iron, potassium, aspirin, or a narcotic pain pill are not the appropriate remedies, or are not enough. In these cases, I encourage my patients to try a magnet. Let me share some success stories.
Cancer: Dr. F was diagnosed with cancer at age 41. After three months of chemotherapy, he decided that because the track record for chemotherapy was poor, it would be crazy to not add other modalities to his own treatment. Since his oncologist was concerned with chemotherapy dosing, and didn't know about other treatments, Dr. F on his own added Magnetic Field Therapy, via a mattress pad, chair pads in the office and home, and a large magnet worn against the lower spine. (Dr. F added other "modalities" over the next few months.) He experienced fewer negative side effects of chemotherapy, to the surprise of his oncologist. He lived, and still lives to tell about it, I am happy to say, because Dr. F is me!
Arthritis: I remember Mrs. R whose knee joint had no cartilage. No medicine prescribed by me or other doctors had helped her. I taped a small magnet to her knee after a physical exam, and left the room while she got dressed. When I came back to minutes later, she was bending her knee in disbelief; it didn't hurt. The arthritis wasn't gone, but the severe pain was.
Fractured rib: Mr. E had fallen and broken a rib; his oncologist had given him Percocet for pain. He came in to see me, saying the rib still hurt and the drug made him feel bad. I advised him to place a magnet where the pain was causing him discomfort. He later told me the diminishment pain was "instantaneous." The rib still broken, but he was able to discontinue the Percocet. When he broke another rib two months later, he used a magnet first.
Brown recluse spider bite: Mr. W was bitten by a brown recluse spider. He had a one inch ulcer on his lower leg that was not healing. It hurt, too. We taped a magnet over the ulcer. The pain was less and it began to heal up quickly. The magnet, while he used it decreased the pain.
Swollen eye: A boy had been hit in the face by a baseball. His eyelids were swollen. He had already used ice. I gave him a mini magnet and told him to use it where the sting occurred. The swelling was gone the next day. I was surprised.
Shoulder pain: Dr. Q was experiencing a nagging pain in her shoulder for more than three months. She attended the lecture on Magnetic Field Therapy. During this event she held a magnet to her shoulder. The next morning, her shoulder was normal and the pain was gone. My own theory is she used the magnet on her own. (At that same meeting, another doctor used a magnet on a painful knee, which had been through many drugs and physical therapy. The next day, she came to my office for a second magnet, because it was helping her so much.)
Tiredness: When all the tests are normal, doctors often diagnose depression for tired people. Some respond to antidepressant treatment. For Ms. E, magnetic shoe inserts worked. She even returned to her karate class.
As a physician I prefer to understand as fully as possible the workings and applications of Magnetic Field Therapy. I study this in my own practice. I tell my patients about magnets, and I show them the Magnetic Field Therapy Handbook as a guide to usage. I have not had anyone say, "No thanks, I would rather suffer." I am grateful to have Magnetic Field Therapy as a positive intervention for helping the patients in my medical practice.
Alternative Treatments for Chronic Pain
Magnet Therapy for Fibromyalgia
Magnetic Healing Does it work?
by Tom Edward
The idea of magnetic energy or magnetic therapy is centuries old. Legend has it that Cleopatra wore magnetic bracelets and necklaces for healing. Though actively employed by medical doctors in America in the 1800's and early 1900's, magnetic therapy eventually fell out of favor. But in the past decade, magnetic therapy has become a 100 million dollar a year industry in this country (magnetic therapy has long been used as an effective healing tool in China, France, India and Japan, especially in repairing soft-tissue injuries).
Studies on magnetic therapies in the Journal of Electro-and Magnetobiology led some pioneering doctors in this country to experiment with magnets in their practice. Their activities helped to standardize the use of some magnets, the magnet size and strength-in treating various conditions. The length of exposure to a magnet for healing certain ailments was also determined. Because of their work we know which magnets work most efficiently-for example, a magnet placed in one specific area of the body may not activate the entire body's healing power, whereas sleeping on a magnetic bed pad radiates a magnetic field that can penetrate evenly into every part of the body and boost the entire immune system.
Through the growth of the magnetic therapy industry, different magnetic products have been designed which can be useful in treating many conditions. Some of the most commonly used magnetic products include the previously mentioned magnetic mattress which can alleviate insomnia, joint pain, muscle spasm and fibromyalgia. Magnetic inner soles for shoes are often helpful in relieving painful inflammation resulting from bone spurs, and for gout and to improve circulation. Magnetic pads and wraps which can be secured to the lower back, knees and elbows are recommended for arthritic joints, inflamed tendons and carpal tunnel syndrome.
WHAT IS A MAGNET?
In any material that is capable of being magnetized, there are groups of atoms with their own magnetic orientation arranged haphazardly in the material. When that material comes into contact with a strong magnetic field, it rearranges the groups of atoms so that they are in alignment. As the groups of atoms become aligned, they project a magnetic field.
Magnetic energy has different names. Some people call it energy or life force; the Chinese call it Chi, the Indians know it as Prana. Whatever you choose to call it, magnetic energy is a basic force of life-it pulses throughout the galaxies and is found everywhere in nature.
HOW DO MAGNETS HEAL THE BODY?
Some researchers and doctors say that magnets don't actually heal the body. Science knows that the human body is composed of numerous cells that combine to form blood, tissues, bones and organs. These cells are in the constant state of renewing themselves. Dr. Robert Becker, one of the leading medical doctors who advocates the use of magnets in healing, believes that the force which stimulates ,cellular growth and division is electromagnetic energy.
He and other scientists contend that the charge on the cells of the body gets depleted as cells perform their normal daily functions and that the body tries to "recharge" the worn down cells by sending pulses of electromagnetic energy from the brain through the nervous system.
James Souder, President of Norso Biomagnetics in Raleigh, North Carolina, claims that studies performed on animals, and microscopic examination of blood vessels, indicate that capillary blood flow is stimulated by the movement of magnetic fields through tissue and is the dominant factor in magnetic field therapy.
IS ALL MAGNETIC ENERGY HEALING?
As previously stated, magnetic energy is a basic force of nature and necessary to all biological systems. Magnetic energy pulses from far-off galaxies; the sun showers us with magnetic fields. Our earth, itself a huge electromagnet with north and south poles, protects us from harmful cosmic radiation. Cosmic radiation is so potent that it is capable of penetrating a 12 foot thick block of lead. But it cannot penetrate the earth's protective magnetic shield.
There is increasing evidence that there are harmful effects from high pulsating magnetic energy emitted from power transmission lines, TVs, radios, computers, microwaves and myriad electric appliances. The ordinary 60 cycle alternating electromagnetic fields created by technology seem to exert stress on the body's cellular level. It is reported that they can cause memory loss, headaches, changes in heartbeat and blood chemistry. Melatonin production can be reduced, and the brain's electromagnetic signals to the cells can be blocked, diluting the body's disease-fighting ability.
Studies of exposure to alternating electromagnetic fields have shown mutagenic effects, cancer cell promotion and a lowering of the body's pH to a more acidic level.
In addition, energy deprivation caused by living in concrete buildings also appears to have negative effects on the body. Dr. Kyochi Nakagawa, Director of Isuzu Hospital in Tokyo says that "Magnetic Field Deficiency Syndrome," produces symptoms such as headaches, back and neck pains, insomnia, heaviness of head and general lassitude.
USING MAGNETIC ENERGY BENEFICIALLY
While there are many applications claimed for magnetics from the reduction of scar tissue to the treatment of internal organs, the predominant use of magnetic devices is the treatment of musculoskeletal pain and myofacial pain. While, as previously stated, the mechanism by which this pain relief occurs is subject to much conjecture, there is a consensus that heightened blood flow to the area under the footprint of the magnet is one of the primary results of magnetic treatment. The results have been demonstrated by both thermographic and nuclear medicine studies. There have also been evidence of pain blocking phenomena in certain nerve fibers related to the application of magnetic fields. And researchers have been able to demonstrate changes in the electrical potential of nerve cells which raise the threshold for transmitting pain impulses as a result of magnetic fields.
Some scientists subscribe to the "Hall Effect," which promotes the idea that ions in the blood are manipulated by magnetic fields thus producing a heating effect in the magnetized area and increasing blood circulation. James Souder disagrees, and insists that "from a biological perspective, magnets activate or turn on capillaries creating extra blood supply at the cellular level as opposed to the older notion that magnets produce a local heating effect to stimulate blood supply which is essentially what the Hall effect is about."
Dr. Dean Bonlie, Chairman of the Scientific Committee of the North American Academy of Magnetic Therapy, explains that when the body is fatigued, a "loss of static charge" on the body's cells causes a "clumping of red blood cells." Through magnetic field supplementation, he says, chemical reactions are enhanced, building up the charge on cell walls which cause the cells to repel each other, reducing the clumping. With more surface area available, he says, the oxygen-carrying capacity of the cells is increased which in turn reinvigorates the body.
Another source of disagreement among magnetic therapy advocates is the healing quality of negative and positive poles. Such prominent voices in the magnetic therapy movement as Dr. Philpott say that "there are distinct and opposite effects of the two separate magnetic poles on metabolic function...in terms of biological response, the separate negative and positive polarities are as distinctly opposite as day and night, hot and cold, and acid and alkali." Dr. Philpott claims that his clinical observations show that negative magnetic field energy should be used to fight infection, normalize acid base balance, increase cellular oxygen and reduce fluid retention. He claims that using positive magnetic field energy can actually decrease cellular oxygen, accelerate microorganism growth and result in acidic metabolic response. James Joseph, an independent research consultant for Optimal Living Associates, agrees with Dr. Philpott.
Dr. Philpott concluded that positive magnetic field energy creates an acidic condition in the tissue and negative magnetic field energy creates alkalinity after performing before and after saliva tests on patients being treated with a whole-body negative magnetic field. Dr. Bonlie, in a similar test, found that patients who had tested over-alkaline in pre-testing became more acidic, indicating that whole body treatment with a negative magnetic field brings normalcy from either end of the spectrum. Dr. Bonlie claimed that this happened because of "simple rules of physics." "When an atom is placed in an increased magnetic field," says Dr. Bonlie, "the charge is increased on the atom for a fraction of a second. This increase in energy is expressed by an increase in the velocity of some of the orbiting electrons and protons. In the case of paired electrons, one is sped up and the other slowed down. This imbalance causes a phenomenon known in physics as precession (wobble). This is much like increased molecular action which takes place from heating a solution to make a chemical reaction take place. Precession causes electron transfer which is the basis of all chemical reactions in the body. In summary, when the magnetic field is increased in which the atoms of the body exist, body chemistry is enhanced, assisting it in normalcy which improves body performance and healing."
While the physics of magnetic energy is debated, its benefits are being experienced by people around the country. Dr. Ronald Lawrence of Agoura Hills, California asserts that magnets have been extremely effective in the control of arthritic pain in many of his patients. Dee Massengale, an exercise physiologist in Atlanta, Georgia suffering with fibromyaglia since 1982, says that of all the therapies she's tried magnetic devices have been one of the most valuable tools for pain management.
In one of our own experiments, Anne Ziselman of Hollywood, Florida slept with magnet wraps strapped above her kneecap. She reported a reduction of arthritic swelling and a softening of the inflammation after four nights of use. "Sometimes the swelling goes away by itself, but the only times my knee has softened was when I had a cortisone shot," said Mrs. Ziselman.
Magnetic Fields for Migraines? Recent Studies Show Promise, New Study Underway
This can all be found at:
the rion resarch.com
Stewart G. Eidelson, M.D.
SpineUniverse Founder, Orthopaedic Surgeon
Orthopaedic Surgery Associates
Boca Raton, FL, USA
"So many of my patients ask about magnet therapy to treat back and neck pain. Although I do not endorse magnet therapy, as a service to patients, the following information is provided." - Stewart G. Eidelson, M.D.
Using magnets for healing pain is increasingly popular with the public. However, despite this popularity, there is a lack of scientific evidence to prove magnets have any therapeutic benefit. Traditional physicians remain, in general, very skeptical of magnets' benefits. Despite this justified mainstream skepticism, the following article seeks to provide members of the public who are seeking information on magnets with balanced, factual information.
When referring to magnets, we are not talking about the type of magnets found on refrigerator doors - but biomagnets - those magnets manufactured for physical and mental healing. Biomagnets are named after biomagnetism, the science of magnetism.
As children in school we learned that magnetism is an energy force on earth. Each atom has a nucleus around which spins positively charged protons and negatively charged electrons that generate a magnetic field. For thousands of years ancient civilizations studied the positive and negative magnetic forces. For example, in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) it is believed that a balance of these positive and negative forces referred to as Yin and Yang represents good health.
Although not scientifically proven and controversial, theories suggest biomagnets alone do not heal but rather stimulate the body to heal naturally. Some of these scientifically unproven claims include:
-Restoration of cellular magnetic balance
-Migration of calcium ions is accelerated to help heal bones and nerve tissues
-Circulation is enhanced since biomagnets are attracted to the iron in blood and this increase in blood flow helps healing
-Biomagnets have a positive effect on the pH balance of cells
-Hormone production is influenced by biomagnet use
Theory aside, an important aspect of biomagnet use is magnet polarity. This relates to the direction in which the magnet is placed. The North Pole corresponds to TCM Yin, or negative polarity. The South Pole corresponds to TCM Yang, or positive polarity. In the chart below, the magnetic influences of the South and North Poles are shown by example:
Characteristic: Sedating, Cooling
Negative - Yin
Low back pain
Positive - Yang
If the body appears to lack both positive and negative energies to heal, the therapist may apply both the North and South Poles (known as Bipolar) simultaneously. Bipolar biomagnet therapy may be used to heal fractures or treat chronic pain.
The type of ailment determines the type and power of the biomagnet to be used, the length of time the patient has had the problem, its severity, if the ailment is superficial or deep, the area of the body to be treated, and the patient's sensitivity.
Some patients are sensitive to biomagnet therapy. The therapy may temporarily make the condition worse as toxins are released. Light-headedness, headache, sleepiness, and itching are some of the side effects.
Biomagnets Not for Everyone's Use
As with any treatment, there are cautionary measures to follow. For example, biomagnets should not be used during pregnancy, on patients with a history of epilepsy, while taking blood-thinning medications, on bleeding wounds, or if internal bleeding exists.
Biomagnets should never be used on a patient with a pacemaker or who have metal implants that could be dislodged by magnet use.
In infants and children care should be taken as well as use on the eyes, brain, or over the heart at any age.
Biomagnet Power Measured
Biomagnet power is measured in terms of gauss, the line of force per unit area of the pole. The earth's surface is approximately 0.5 gauss. Many manufacturers rate their products using internal gauss and external gauss to indicate strength. Listed below are typical magnetic strength classifications:
Low gauss (g) = 300 - 700 g
Medium gauss = 1000 - 2500 g
High gauss = 3000 - 6000 g
Super gauss = 7000 - 12000 g
Surface gauss rating also refers to the external strength of the magnet. This measurement is dependent on the size, shape, polarity, and grade of the magnetic material.
Some experts in biomagnet therapy begin treatment at low gauss and gradually increase strength as necessary.
We recommend you consult with a specialist who is skilled in administering biomagnet therapy first.
Types of Biomagnets
There are about as many types of biomagnets as there are body parts! Magnetic mattresses and pads are designed to be slept on, magnetic insoles fit inside shoes, block magnets can be placed under mattresses, pillows, or seat cushions, back supports are even available with slots for magnet insertion. Others are made as body wraps with Velcro closures, jewelry, and magnetic foil.
Caring for Biomagnets
Most biomagnets are made of ferrites, which are iron oxides combined with cobalt, nickel, barium and other metals to make a ceramic-like material. The flexible types of magnets are combined with plastic, rubber or other pliable materials. The strongest biomagnets are those made from neodymium (rare earth element).
However, just because biomagnets are strong does not mean they are indestructible! When subjected to intense heat (400+ degrees F) a magnet will lose all its energy. Also, don't drop magnets.
And remember, magnets can damage CDs, computer hard drives, credit cards, and other devices with metal components.
Biomagnets claim to be relatively safe, non-invasive, 100% natural, and drug free. Some manufacturers claim their magnets work fast and even offer guarantees. Many patients have reported significant improvement in back pain and other ailments with biomagnet use. However, there remains a lack of scientific data to validate the efficacy of magnets, and accordingly, very few doctors of medicine (MDs) are know to prescribe magnets for the treatment of spinal disorders.
As with any new treatment, we recommend discussing your condition with specialists who can present the argument for the therapy, and with those who are against the therapy, to provide you with a balanced picture upon which to base your decision.
Editorial Comment: The editorial staff at spineuniverse.com tries to be open-minded to alternative treatments but will not fully support magnet therapy until "doubled blinded" studies are initiated that scientifically support the value of magnet products for back care. It would be very easy to set up these studies and we challenge the Industry to report their findings from "controlled" studies without prejudice.
The Skeptics Corner
The Skeptics Dictionary
"I know of no scientist who takes this claim seriously...It's another fad. They come and go like copper bracelets and crystals and all of these things, and this one will pass too." --Robert Park of the American Physical Society.
"Iron atoms in a magnet are crammed together in a solid state about one atom apart from one another. In your blood only four iron atoms are allocated to each hemoglobin molecule, and they are separated by distances too great to form a magnet. This is easily tested by pricking your finger and placing a drop of your blood next to a magnet. " --Michael Shermer*
Magnet therapy is a type of "alternative" medicine which claims that magnetic fields have healing powers. Some claim that magnets can help broken bones heal faster, but most of the advocacy comes from those who claim that magnets relieve pain. Most of the support for these notions is in the form of testimonials and anecdotes, and can be attributed to "placebo effects and other effects accompanying their use" (Livingston 1998). There is almost no scientific evidence supporting magnet therapy. One highly publicized exception is a double-blind study done at Baylor College of Medicine which compared the effects of magnets and sham magnets on the knee pain of 50 post-polio patients. The experimental group reported a significantly greater reduction in pain than the control group. No replication of the study has yet been done.
A less publicized study at the New York College of Podiatric Medicine found that magnets did not have any effect on healing heel pain. Over a 4-week period, 19 patients wore a molded insole containing a magnetic foil, while 15 patients wore the same type of insole with no magnetic foil. In both groups, 60% reported improvement.
Despite the fact that there has been virtually no scientific testing of magnet therapy, a growing industry is producing magnetic bracelets, bands, insoles, back braces, mattresses, etc., and claiming miraculous powers for their products. The magnet market may be approaching $150 million annually (Collie). (Lerner claims that U.S. sales are near the half billion mark and that world-wide magnetic therapy is bringing in nearly twice as much.) Magnets are becoming the gimmick of choice of chiropractors and other "pain specialists." Former potter Marlynn Chetkof sells Russell Biomagnetic products and advises that magnets are better than painkillers or living with pain (Collie). Even a bankrupt building contractor, Rick Jones, is trying to cash in on the current magnet craze. He has formed a company called Optimum Health Technologies, Inc. to market his "Magnassager," a hand-held vibrator with magnets retailing for $489. Jones claims his invention "isn't just another massage device." He says it uses an electromagnetic field to help circulate blood while it's massaging the muscles. Jones raised $300,000 from investors and spent it all on "product development and marketing." Not a cent was spent on scientific testing of the device before bringing it to market, though he did give $20,000 to a physiologist to evaluate his device "to make sure that it was not gimmicky" (Kasler).
The claim that magnets help "circulate blood" is a common one among supporters of magnet therapy, but there is no scientific evidence that magnets do anything to the blood. Even though the evidence is lacking that magnets have anything other than a placebo effect, theories abound as to how they work. Some say magnets are like a shiatsu massage; some claim magnets affect the iron in red blood cells; still others claim that magnets create an alkaline reaction in the body (Collie). Bill Roper, head of Magnetherapy claims that "Magnets don't cure or heal anything. All they do is set your body back to normal so the healing process can begin" (Collie). How he knows this is not clear.
Some supporters of magnetic therapy seem to base their belief on a metaphysical assumption that all illness is due to some sort of imbalance or disharmony in energy. The balance or flow of electromagnetic energy must be restored to restore health, and magnets are thought to be able to do this.
The most rabid advocates of magnet therapy are athletes such as Jim Colbert and John Huston (golfers), Dan Marino (football) and Lindsay Davenport (tennis). Their beliefs are based on little more than post hoc reasoning. It is possible that the relief a magnetic belt gives to a golfer with a back problem, however, is not simply a function of the placebo effect or the regressive fallacy. It may well be due to the support or added heat the belt provides. The product might work just as well without the magnets. However, athletes are not given to scientific testing any more than are the manufacturers of magnetic gimmickry.
Athletes aren't the only ones enamored of the power of magnets to heal. Dr. Richard Rogachefsky, an orthopedic surgeon at the University of Miami, claims to have used magnets on about 600 patients, including people who have been shot. He says that the magnets "accelerate the healing process." His evidence? He can tell by looking at X-rays. Dr. William Jarvis is skeptical. He says that "Any doctor who relies on clinical impressions, on what they think they see, is a fool" (Collie). There is a good reason scientists do controlled double-blind studies to test causal efficacy: to prevent self-deception.
Dr. Mark S. George, an associate professor of psychiatry, neurology and radiology at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, did a controlled experiment on the use of magnets to treat depression. He only studied twelve patients for two weeks, however, so his results are of little significance.
While sales of magnetic products keep rising, there are a few scientific studies going on. The University of Virginia is testing magnets on sufferers of fibromyalgia. The Universities of Miami and Kentucky are testing magnets on people with carpal tunnel syndrome (Collie). At present, however, we have no good reason to believe that magnets have any more healing power than crystals or copper bracelets.
See related entries on alternative medicine, the post hoc fallacy, and the regressive fallacy.
Magnet study contradicts "increased circulation" claim - Quackwatch newsletter 9/17/2002
Magnets Unplugged by Sharon Lerner (Village Voice, March 2001)
Magnetic and Electromagnetic Therapy by David W. Ramey, DVM
Magnet Therapy by Dr. Stephen Barrett
"Why Bogus Therapies Often Seem to Work" by Barry L. Beyerstein, Ph.D.
"Magnetize Your Beverages" by Stephen Barrett, M.D.
Magnet Therapy Relieves Post-Polio Pain
Revolutionary New Insoles Combine Five Forms Of Pseudoscience
Biomagnetic Pseudoscience and Nonsense Claims by Miguel A. Sabadell
Little Scientific Basis for Magnets' Pain Relief by Don Colburn
Magnetic Water and Fuel Treatment: Myth, Magic, or Mainstream Science? by Mike R. Powell, Skeptical Inquirer, Jan/Feb 1998.
Study on Magnet Therapy Shows Limited Potential for Pain Relief
Collie, Ashley Jude. "Let the Force Be With You," American Way, March 15, 1999.
Franklin, Benjamin and Antoine Lavoisier. "Report of the Commissioners Charged by the King to Examine Animal Magnetism" (reprinted in an English translation in Skeptic, Vol. 4, No. 3). The report was instituted by French king Louis XVI in 1784.
Kasler, Dale. "Inside Business," Sacramento Bee, June 29, 1998.
Livingston, James D. "Magnetic Therapy: Plausible Attraction?" Skeptical Inquirer (July/August1998).
Livingston, James D. Driving Force: The Natural Magic of Magnets (Harvard University Press, 1997).
Stephen Barrett, M.D.
During the past few years, magnetic devices have been claimed to relieve pain and to have therapeutic value against a large number of diseases and conditions. The way to evaluate such claims is to ask whether scientific studies have been published. Pulsed electromagnetic fields -- which induce measurable electric fields -- have been demonstrated effective for treating slow-healing fractures and have shown promise for a few other conditions. However, few studies have been published on the effect on pain of small, static magnets marketed to consumers .
Explanations that magnetic fields "increase circulation," "reduce inflammation," or "speed recovery from injuries" are simplistic and are not supported by the weight of experimental evidence .
The main basis for the claims is a double-blind test study, conducted at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, which compared the effects of magnets and sham magnets on knee pain. The study involved 50 adult patients with pain related to having been infected with the polio virus when they were children. A static magnetic device or a placebo device was applied to the patient's skin for 45 minutes. The patients were asked to rate how much pain they experienced when a "trigger point was touched." The researchers reported that the 29 patients exposed to the magnetic device achieved lower pain scores than did the 21 who were exposed to the placebo device [3}
Although this study is cited by nearly everyone selling magnets, it provides no legitimate basis for concluding that magnets offer any health-related benefit:
Although the groups were said to be selected randomly, the ratio of women to men in the experimental group was twice that of the control group. If women happen to be more responsive to placebos than men, a surplus of women in the "treatment" group would tend to improve that group's score.
The age of the placebo group was four years higher than that of the control group. If advanced age makes a person more difficult to treat, the "treatment" group would again have a scoring advantage.
The investigators did not measure the exact pressure exerted by the blunt object at the trigger point before and after the study.
Even if the above considerations have no significance, the study should not be extrapolated to suggest that other types of pain can be relieved by magnets.
There was just one brief exposure and no systematic follow-up of patients. Thus there was no way to tell whether any improvement would be more than temporary.
The authors themselves acknowledge that the study was a "pilot study." Pilot studies are done to determine whether it makes sense to invest in a larger more definitive study. They never provide a legitimate basis for marketing any product as effective against any symptom or health problem.
Two better-designed, longer-lasting pain studies have been negative:
Researchers at the New York College of Podiatric Medicine have reported negative results in a study of patients with heel pain. Over a 4-week period, 19 patients wore a molded insole containing a magnetic foil, while 15 patients wore the same type of insole with no magnetic foil. In both groups, 60% reported improvement, which suggests that the magnetic foil conveyed no benefit .
More recently, researchers at the VA Medical Center in Prescott, Arizona conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study involving 20 patients with chronic back pain. Each patient was exposed to real and sham bipolar permanent magnets during alternate weeks, for 6 hours per day, 3 days per week for a week, with a 1-week period between the treatment weeks. No difference in pain or mobility was found between the treatment and sham-treatment periods .
Magnets have also been claimed to increase circulation. This claim is false. If it were true, placing a magnet on the skin would make the area under the magnet become red, which it does not. Moreover, a well-designed study that actually measured blood flow has found no increase. The study involved 12 healthy volunteers who were exposed to either a 1000-gauss magnetic disk or an identically appearing disk that was not magnetic. No change in the amount or speed of blood flow was observed when either disk was applied to their arm. . The magnets were manufactured by Magnetherapy, Inc, of Riviera Beach, Florida, a company that has been subjected to two regulatory actions.
Legal and Regulatory Actions
In 1998, Magnetherapy, Inc., signed an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance with the State of Texas to pay a $30,000 penalty and to stop claiming that wearing its magnetic device near areas of pain and inflammation will relieve pain due to arthritis, migraine headaches, sciatica or heel spurs. The agreement also requires Magnetherapy to stop making claims that its magnets can cure, treat, or mitigate any disease or can affect any change in the human body, unless its devices are FDA-approved for those purposes . Ads for the company's Tectonic Magnets had featured testimonials from athletes, including golfers from the senior pro tours. Various ads had claimed that Tectonic Magnets would provide symptomatic relief from certain painful conditions and could restore range of motion to muscles and joints. The company had provided retailers with display packages that included health claims, written testimonials, and posters of sports stars. Texas Attorney General Dan Morales stated that some claims were false or unsubstantiated and others had rendered the product unapproved medical devices under Texas law. In 1997, the FDA had warned Magnetherapy to stop claiming that its products would relieve arthritis; tennis elbow; low back pain; sciatica; migraine headache; muscle soreness; neck, knee, ankle, and shoulder pain; heel spurs; bunions; arthritic fingers and toes; and could reduce pain and inflammation in the affected areas by increasing blood and oxygen flow .
In 1999, the FTC obtained a consent agreement barring two companies from making unsubstantiated claims about their magnetic products. Magnetic Therapeutic Technologies, of Irving, Texas, is barred from claiming that its magnetic sleep pads or other products: (a) are effective against cancers, diabetic ulcers, arthritis, degenerative joint conditions, or high blood pressure; (b) could stabilize or increase the T-cell count of HIV patients; (c) could reduce muscle spasms in persons with multiple sclerosis; (d) could reduce nerve spasms associated with diabetic neuropathy; (e) could increase bone density, immunity, or circulation; or (f) are comparable or superior to prescription pain medicine. Pain Stops Here! Inc., of Baiting Hollow, N.Y., may no longer claim that its "magnetized water" or other products are useful against cancer, diseases of the liver or other internal organs, gallstones, kidney stones, urinary infection, gastric ulcers, dysentery, diarrhea, skin ulcers, bed sores, arthritis, bursitis, tendinitis, sprains, strains, sciatica, heart disease, circulatory disease, arthritis, auto-immune illness, neuro-degenerative disease, and allergies, and could stimulate the growth of plants.
On August 8, 2000, the Consumer Justice Center, of Laguna Niguel, California filed suit in Orange County Superior Court charging that Florsheim and a local shoe store (Shoe Emporium) made false and fraudulent claims that their MagneForce shoes (a) correct "magnetic deficiency," (b) "generate a deep-penetrating magnetic field which increases blood circulation; reduces leg and back fatigue; and provides natural pain relief and improved energy level."; and (c) their claims are established and proven by scientific studies . A few days after this suit was filed, Florsheim removed the disputed ad from its Web site.
In 2001, Richard Markoll, his wife Ernestine, David H. Trock, M.D., and Bio-Magnetic Treatment Systems (BMTS) pled guilty to criminal charges in connection with a scheme involving pulsed magnetic therapy. The participants used fraudulent billing codes to seek payment from Medicare and three other insurance plans for treatment with a device (Electro-Magnetic Induction Treatment System, Model 30/30) that lacked FDA approval . The treatments -- called pulsed signal therapy (PST) -- were administered in a clinical trial on an investigational basis not approved by the FDA. The Markolls were sentenced to 3 years probation, a $4,000 fine and a $100 special assessment. Ernestine Markoll was sentenced to 2 years probation, a $1,000 fine and a $25 special assessment. Magnetic Therapy, was sentenced to a 1-day summary probation and a $200 special assessment. The Markolls also signed a civil settlement under which they agreed to pay the U.S Government $4 million . The device was invented by Richard Markoll, MD, PhD, who does not have a medical license but is described in Web site biographies as a graduate of Grace University School of Medicine, a Caribbean medical school. Trock, a former principal investigator for Magnetic Therapy Center, PC, Danbury, CT, was sentenced to 6 months probation. and ordered to make restitution of $35,250 . Trock has co-authored studies claiming that PST is effective for treating pain, but the device is not FDA-approved for that purpose.
In September 2002, California Attorney General Bill Lockyer charged Florida-based European Health Concepts, Inc. (EHC) with making false and misleading claims about its magnetic mattress pads and seat cushions. The complaint, filed in Sacramento Superior Court, also named EHC president Kevin Todd and several sales managers and agents as defendants. The suit seeks more than $1 million in civil penalties for engaging in unfair business practices and making false claims; $500,000 in civil penalties for transactions involving senior citizens; and full restitution for purchasers of the products. The complaint alleged that prospective customers, primarily senior citizens, were invited to attend a free dinner seminar at which they were told that EHC's products could help people suffering from fibromyalgia, lupus, sciatica, herniated discs, asthma, bronchitis, cataracts, chronic fatigue syndrome, colitis, diverticulitis, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, and more than 50 other health conditions. The sales agents offered phony price discounts for immediate purchases that actually were the company's regular prices. .
The Commissioner called Dr. Philip Neufeld of Health Canada's Medical Devices Bureau as a witness. He explained that, under the Regulations, a product is considered a Class I medical device as long
as someone makes a representation that it has a medical attribute. A product is designated as a Class I medical device because the manufacturer claims that it has medical benefits, not because Health Canada agrees with the claims or the manufacturer has proven them. All that a manufacturer has to do is supply the required identifying information and declare that its product is safe and effective for the purposes claimed; it is not required to submit any evidence that this is the case.
The Bottom Line
There is no scientific basis to conclude that small, static magnets can relieve pain or influence the course of any disease. In fact, many of today's products produce no significant magnetic field at or beneath the skin's surface.
Livingston JD. Magnetic therapy: Plausible attraction. Skeptical Inquirer 25-30, 58, 1998.
Ramey DW. Magnetic and electromagnetic therapy. Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine 2(1):13-19, 1998.
Vallbona C, Hazelwood CF, Jurida G. Response of pain to static magnetic fields in postpolio patients: A double-blind pilot study. Archives of Physical and Rehabilitative Medicine 78:1200-1203, 1997.
Caselli MA and others. Evaluation of magnetic foil and PPT Insoles in the treatment of heel pain. Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association 87:11-16, 1997.
Collacott EA and others. Bipolar permanent magnets for the treatment of chronic low back pain. JAMA 283:1322-1325, 2000.
Mayrovitz HN and others. Assessment of the short-term effects of a permanent magnet on normal skin blood circulation via laser-Doppler flowmetry. Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine 6(1):9-12, 2002.
Morales halts unproven claims for magnet therapy. News release, April 9, 1998.
Gill LJ. Letter to William L. Roper, Feb 3, 1997.
Jeff Wynton and the Consumer Justice Center v. Florsheim Group, Inc., Shoe Emporium. Superior Court of California, Orange County, Case #00CC09419, filed Aug 8, 2000.
Burns EB. Omnibus ruling on defendants' motion to strike and motions to dismiss. United States of America v Richard Markoll, Ernestine Binder Markoll, and Bio-Magnetic Systems, Inc. U.S. District Court, District of Connecticut, No. 3:00cr133(EBB), Jan 2001.
Defense Criminal Investigative Service press release, Aug, 2001.
Defense Criminal Investigative Service press release, June, 2001.
Barrett S. California Attorney General sues magnetic mattress pad sellers. Quackwatch, Sept 24, 2002.
Magnet Therapy from AETNA InteliHealth
Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness. Each state and each discipline has its own rules about whether practitioners are required to be professionally licensed. If you plan to visit a practitioner, it is recommended that you choose one who is licensed by a recognized national organization and who abides by the organization's standards. It is always best to speak with your primary health care provider before starting any new therapeutic technique.
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