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Magnetic Therapy and Supposed Benefits

Updated on June 11, 2012

For those late getting to class, please take your seats. Thank you. Now, we were discussing claims of magnetic therapy healing properties. The technique was used at least back to the time of the ancient Greeks, Egyptians, Hebrews, Arabs and Chinese. Legend has it Cleopatra wore a magnetic amulet on her forehead to keep her youthful. It was thought static magnetic fields somehow had a positive effect on blood circulation, thereby healing a myriad of physical problems.

Use of magnets use became popular following the Civil War. They were even advertised in the Sears Roebuck catalog. And medical text books of the day had whole chapters on the subject. But as more and more pharmaceutical companies began pushing their pills, magnetic therapy lost its luster. That is, until more recently with the growth of the alternative medicine industry.

Hey, you there in the back flirting with that girl, pay attention…there will be a pop quiz at the end of class. OK then, where were we? Right, blood circulation could be a plausible way to explain magnetism’s so called curative powers. That’s assuming the field surrounding magnet therapy devices was strong enough to have an effect on iron contained in the blood stream.

The theory is increased blood circulation will provide more oxygen to the body and help it reject waste products and harmful chemicals. Proponents also claim improved calcium flow helps to heal broken limbs and relieve arthritic joints as well as help control hormone production, linked to a number of various ailments.

This is the most common concept for such claims. Supposedly they bring a body’s “electromagnetic field” into alignment with the Earth’s magnetic field. We’ve all seen magnetic products like these advertised:

· bracelets

· jewelry, straps for wrists, ankles shoe insoles

· mattresses

· blankets

· water

· dog collars

In the United States alone, it has become an industry raking in over 300 million dollars annually. There have been several studies conducted on this form of alternative treatment. One in 1991 found magnets had no significant effect. Another seemed to show a slight improvement, but has since been discredited as having not being conducted properly.

In fact, most reputable studies have shown magnetic therapy is ineffective in treating pain, stiffness, osteoarthritis or anything else. The conclusion was any realized benefits were most likely attributable to the “placebo effect.”

You have a question sir? If that’s the case, why are these devices still being marketed? Good question. First of all, the FDA ruled magnets marketed with medical claims are classified as a medical device and therefore requires their approval.

That being said, the question of how these entrepreneurs manage to skirt the issue arises. Read the fine print on the ads. Notice the use of their medical terminology. Are there any first year med students in the class? Great, any of them could tell you terms like electromotive force and polarity agent effect are purely pseudoscientific in their context relating to the human body, although they do sound impressive. Also notice the disclaimer one needs a magnifying glass to read. It says something about still being researched and not to substitute their product for prescribed medications and conventional medical treatment.

Is something beginning to smell a little fishy? The truth is the magnetic field created by a human body is so weak it can barely be measured. And here’s something else to chew on. If this theory held any water, what would happen when a much stronger magnetic force was used, such as in the case of magnetic resonance imagery? Their body would be ripped apart.

Although the National Science Foundation has stated magnetic therapies have no sound basis in scientific fact, the general consensus is they pose no threat to human safety, as long as they are not used as a replacement for conventional medicine. It may become obvious to anyone who has studied the data the only ones promoting the benefits of magnetic therapy are those standing to gain from the sale of their products.

In conclusion, any students wanting to wear magnetic items are free to do so. However, those in the computer lab might disagree. Class dismissed.

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