Imagine you are perusing the aisles at the pharmacy, looking for something new to use on the persistent ache of tennis elbow. There, among the gels, lotions, and creams, you see an array of magnetic jewelry and wraps, suggesting an alternative medical approach to your everyday aches and pains. "Does it really work?" you think to yourself. "If it does work, how does it work? And who's using it besides me?"
As it turns out, healing with magnets is an idea that's been around for hundreds of years—since ancient times in some cultures (such as China and Greece). But recently, due to an increased interest in alternative medicine and news of some well-known athletes using magnetic therapy for pain relief, the interest in healing with magnets seems to be growing. Here is an introduction to the theory behind what magnetic healing is, why some doctors believe it works, and how it might help you.
The two main goals of magnetic healing are to speed healing and reduce pain. Additionally, some people believe that magnets can improve circulation and re-energize the body. In terms of healing an area of the body, magnets are placed either on or near the body, and it's believed that the magnets act to stimulate the cellular and chemical area where the healing is to occur. That is, blood is accelerated to the area, which increases the oxygenation of the blood and dilates the blood vessels, providing additional oxygen and nutrients to the place in need of healing. In terms of reducing pain, some doctors believe that pain reduction with magnets works similarly to using a heating pad. The magnets are again placed on or near the body, and are used to stimulate nerve endings by acting to interrupt pain signals to the brain. The difference is that heat treatment can be more intense, while magnetic healing is more constant. So, while you can't wear a heating pad for hours at a time, you can wear a magnetic bracelet every day.
So there's a simple explanation of how magnetic healing is thought to work, but the question is, does it really work? That seems to depend on who you talk to. Some studies have been done on magnetic healing, but with varied results. It seems that for every study with a high rate of success using magnetic healing, another study comes along with a low rate of success. And it's important to remember all the variables, too, because every person's injuries are different. In addition, one magnet might work and another might not, so trying a different magnetic healing device might yield different results. The bottom line is that at this point there is limited scientific evidence to either support or deny the positive results of healing with magnets. Plus, some experts argue that those who use magnets and believe in their benefits are only suffering from the "placebo effect"—that they are experiencing healing or pain relief because the power of the mind simply wants it to be so. Still, golfers, football players, and several other athletes from a variety of sports backgrounds, as well as some doctors and many patients, swear by the benefits of magnetic healing; so, anyone interested in the option of healing with magnets needs to make his or her own decision.
While some think of the practice of magnetic healing as alternative medicine, it's important to note that most experts advise magnetic healing should never be used as a replacement for traditional medical care. Rather, it's a good idea to discuss magnetic therapy with your doctor as an addition to your treatment.
If you decide to give healing with magnets a try, here is more information you'll need to get started:
Common ailments for which magnetic healing is thought to provide some relief include arthritis, back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, sinus and stress headaches, asthma, muscle spasms, toothaches, strains, joint pain, fractures, and swelling.
Magnets have two different poles—a positive pole and a negative pole. For reasons most researchers cannot explain, applying the negative side of a magnet is effective, but applying the positive side of a magnet is not.
The force (magnetic field of energy) from a magnet is measured in gauss strength. Magnets used for pain relief and healing typically measure between 300–1000 gauss. (By the way, don't expect any relief from your common refrigerator magnets, which aren't strong enough: They're usually only around fifty gauss.)
There are two kinds of magnets—permanent and pulsating. Permanent magnets provide a consistent and steady magnetic field, and are the type used to combat pain. Pulsating magnets don't provide a steady magnetic field, but have been used to stimulate growth in broken bones.
Magnetic healing products come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from wrist and ankle jewelry to Velcro wraps to magnet-filled pads to fit on your bed.
Wraps and jewelry can be placed in several spots on your body, including feet, ankles, knees, hips, back, hands, wrists, shoulders, neck, and forehead.
Look for magnetic healing products at your pharmacy, health food store, some doctors' offices, new-age boutiques, alternative medicine stores, and from a variety of sites on the Web. Be sure that any product you purchase comes with a money-back guarantee. Expect to spend anywhere from $20–$30 for magnetic jewelry—you may even pay hundreds of dollars for larger products.
Most researchers and experts agree that there are no negative side effects of magnetic therapy. However, if you are pregnant, have a pacemaker or automatic defibrillator, or use an insulin pump, you should not use magnetic healing. Likewise, magnets should never be placed over an open wound.