Parkland Press

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Healthy Geezer: What’s the attraction with magnets?

Sunday, January 26, 2020 by FRED CICETTI Special to The Press in Focus

Q. Can magnets relieve pain?

Here’s the official position of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the medical research agency of the federal government:

“Scientific evidence does not support the use of magnets for pain relief. Preliminary studies looking at different types of pain, such as knee, hip, wrist, foot, back, and pelvic pain, have had mixed results. Some of these studies, including a 2007 clinical trial sponsored by the National Institutes of Health that looked at back pain in a small group of people, have suggested a benefit from using magnets. However, many studies have not been of high quality; they included a small number of participants, were too short, and-or were inadequately controlled. The majority of rigorous trials have found no effect on pain.”

People have been using magnets to improve health for a long time. In the third century A.D., the Greeks were treating arthritis with magnets. Medieval doctors used magnets to treat gout, poisoning, and baldness.

During the American Civil War, some used magnetic hairbrushes, shoe insoles, ointments and magnet-adorned clothing to treat maladies.

Magnets are popular for pain relief in shoe insoles, bracelets, headbands, belts and mattress pads. Lack of regulation and widespread public acceptance have turned magnetic therapy into a $5-billion worldwide business.

A magnet produces a force called a magnetic field. Static magnets have magnetic fields that do not change. Electromagnets generate magnetic fields only when electrical current flows through them.

Magnet-use advocates claim that sufferers need more magnetic fields in their bodies. Magnets are supposed to increase your magnetic fields and make you feel better.

Magnets are considered safe when placed on the skin. However, they present a danger to those using pacemakers, defibrillators or insulin pumps because magnets can interfere with these devices. People with metal implants should also avoid magnets.

Magnet therapy has not been tested for safety in pregnancy and infancy, and there is some evidence in animals that it could damage the brain of a developing embryo or newborn. One animal study indicated that sperm might be adversely affected by magnet therapy.

“If you can afford to spend the money and think magnets make you feel better, that’s fine,” said the late James Livingstone, a physicist at Boston’s Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of “The Natural Magic of Magnets,” who added, “I’m very skeptical. I can’t convince myself to say it is totally impossible, but my own feeling is that 90 to 99 percent of it is nonsense.”

Magnets are a useful tool in mainstream medicine. They are used for diagnosis in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines and in magnetic pulse fields used to treat Parkinson’s disease.

There is a relatively new procedure known as Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) that is used to treat moderate depression when medication and psychotherapy aren’t effective. During TMS, doctors place an electromagnet against your head.

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All Rights Reserved © 2020 Fred Cicetti

The Times News, Inc., and affiliates (Lehigh Valley Press) do not endorse or recommend any medical products, processes, or services or provide medical advice. The views of the columnist and column do not necessarily state or reflect those of the Lehigh Valley Press. The article content is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, or other qualified health-care provider, with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.