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Can a Magnetic Connection Cure Pain?

Alternative Medicine
By: Lara Endreszl
Published: Sunday, 14 December 2008

As a kid, I had a bunch of little round magnets that were supposed to be glued onto the back of homemade refrigerator magnets. Instead I used to stack them up on the kitchen table and turn them around and around attracting and repelling the little discs for the sheer wonder of the power they held. Little did I know magnets have been widely used as an alternative method of treating pain from headaches and motion sickness to joint pain.

For centuries magnets have been used for various health purposes and were first used in stone form. Called lodestones, ancient Greeks used the magnetized stones as a way to cure certain ailments. To keep patients from bleeding, physicians used amber pills that were magnetized, as well as magnetic rings, to ease arthritis suffering. The Middle Ages found magnets being used against poison, gout, and the threat of baldness, as well as for pulling out objects containing iron (like arrowheads) and as an antiseptic for cleaning wounds.

Ancient healers thought that the blood contained magnetic energy and when it became low or displaced, the patient became ill. After the Civil War, magnets were put into clothing in order to reduce the need for doctors, which were hard to find. In the United States, magnets are still in use today, not so much in clothing to replenish deficiencies in the body, but for shoe insoles to stabilize painful foot symptoms, inside a mattress pad for general body well being, and inside discreet elastic bands to wear against pressure points (most common on the inside of your wrist) to ward off sickness from the sea, from altitude, or motion in genera—like a long car ride in the backseat.

Multiple conditions are said to be fought by manipulating the magnetic fields coursing through your body. Liver and kidney problems, back pain, and fibromyalgia are some of the major health concerns people look to magnets to solve.

Popular, yes, but healthy? No one can say for sure. Dr. Andrew Weil—renowned alternative medicine doctor and famous for being a specialist in giving practical health advice related to his field to public figures such as Oprah Winfrey—says the jury’s still out. Weil addresses their popularity and widespread use on multiple causes, but isn’t sure spending money on gimmicky magnets are worth your while in the long run, especially because there have been no previous studies confirming their positive results.

Weil says there are two main types of magnets, static and electromagnetic. Static magnets are like the ones I used to play with on my kitchen table which don’t change their magnetic field. These are the types that are usually associated with small adhesive patches and the elastic bands for cabin pressure and motion sickness and inside shoes and key rings and other devices said to “balance” out the body. Some people have claimed that these types of magnetic fields are able to help temporarily relieve pain associated with chronic back symptoms and can even give you a boost of energy throughout daily wear, but concrete research has yet to back those theories up.

On the other hand, electromagnets are often used in hospitals in devices like MRI machines using magnetic fields with an active electrical current, using radiation to help doctors see inside the body and sometimes speed up the bone-healing process. As recently as March, a medical journal published a paper that touts researchers’ findings that electromagnetic technology was able to reduce depression in people who didn’t respond to other methods of treatment. With all of these methods, more research always has to be done.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) cites that science may find a way to propose the worth of magnets for the body and have conducted small trials using animals instead of humans. Possibilities are that magnets may be able to change nerve cell functions and block pain signals from getting to the brain, blood flow and oxygen transport can be increased thereby inducing body temperature to ailing areas of the body, and by balancing the rate of cell growth and death. With every type of medicine there are risk factors involved and a consultation from a doctor or natural healer would always be wise before starting any type of radical therapy.

Whatever type of medical theory you subscribe to, doctors and researchers alike warn to use your own judgment when applying magnetic fields to what ails you. Talk to your physician and rate the pros and cons. Whether or not this type of magnetic manipulation appeals to your common sense, I think we all have learned that magnets aren’t just for the refrigerator anymore.


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