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Therapeutic Magnets Attract Attention

Therapeutic Magnets Attract Attention

Karen Clark

Many researchers report that magnets help the body to heal itself by increasing blood flow and sending more oxygen and nutrients to the affected area.

Magnets have become an indispensable part of United States healthcare since the development of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)–possibly the most significant diagnostic tool since X-rays. A MRI procedure uses powerful magnetic forces to produce images without the use of radiation.

As more becomes clear about the body’s electromagnetic forces and the effect of those forces on the nerves, more and more medical professionals are becoming convinced of the effectiveness of magnet therapy for pain relief, as well as the reduction of inflammation and swelling. Many researchers report that magnets help the body to heal itself by increasing blood flow and sending more oxygen and nutrients to the affected area.

The successful use of therapeutic magnets in the Far East and central Europe throughout the 20th century has been well documented. While magnet use has been slow to catch on in the United States, it has seen a phenomenal growth in the past 10 years. Countless pain sufferers worldwide claim to have been helped by such therapy, including many well-known athletes.

Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine, University of Miami, University of Kentucky, Tufts University, Mount Sinai Medical Center, The National Institutes of Health and many other respected institutions have conducted studies on the use of therapeutic magnets, most reporting impressive results. In addition to pain relief, studies have shown that magnets also help to relieve diabetic neuropathy.

Physician, heal thyself

One company, Magna Tech Labs, Inc., holds a U.S. patent on magnet therapy. It’s the only concept patent in the United States on therapeutic magnets and is specific to the methods used by the company.

A thoracic and cardiovascular surgeon for 45 years, Magna Tech founder Dr. Alvin Bakst suffered from lower back pain. His search for a non-surgical, drug-free way to alleviate the discomfort was aided by his thorough understanding of how the body’s nerves behave. After studying many methods, he determined that powerful magnets worn on the body were effective in reducing discomfort when using an appropriate magnetic field and applying it to the nerves specifically involved in producing the sensation of pain.

One of the greatest benefits of therapeutic magnets, Bakst notes, is that many patients can reduce or eliminate their use of painkilling drugs, “and you can’t overdose on magnetic energy. It’s a non-invasive, drug-free remedy with absolutely no side effects.”

Magnetic healing

“The human body contains a network of electromagnetic forces,” explains Bakst. “The sensation of pain is communicated to the brain through a flow of miniscule ions, carrying both positive and negative charges, which interact with each other. Injury or trauma to tissue causes affected nerves to become more positively charged, and the brain perceives this as discomfort. Powerful magnetic products put out negative charges which interrupt the flow of those ions, thus interrupting the pain message.”

Another theory as to why the magnets work has to do with the fact that sodium and potassium ions, as well as red blood cells, carry positive charges. The use of a negative magnetic field attracts these ions, thereby augmenting blood circulation to the area, which raises local temperature and provides soothing heat.

“There’s magnetism all around us,” notes Bakst. “Just as the earth greatly affected by magnetic forces from the north and south poles, the human body is subject to magnetic energy charges. When you can strategically direct the right kind of magnetic field to pain-affected areas of the body, pain is often lessened or entirely eliminated.”

Magnetic mattress pads

A double-blind, randomized controlled trial was recently conducted by doctors at the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, Mass. The objective was to determine if the chronic pain and sleep disturbances experienced by patients with fibromyalgia could be improved by sleeping on a magnetic mattress pad. Thirty-five female subjects diagnosed with fibromyalgia syndrome were randomly recruited. The average age of the 25 subjects who completed the study was 49.7 years, ranging from 25 to 78 years.

The subjects were asked to sleep nightly either on a magnetized mattress pad (supplied by Magnetherapy, Inc.) or on a non-magnetized pad (sham) for a 16-week period. The outcome data for pain, sleep, tiredness and fatigue were compared at monthly intervals.

By the fourth week, subjects in the experimental group demonstrated a significant reduction in pain and this continued to decrease through week 12. In contrast, there was no significant change in pain for the control group over the entire 16-week period. There was a significant sleep improvement in the experimental group by week 12, and by week 8, that same group had much more energy and less fatigue. Tiredness upon awakening in the experimental group further improved by week 16. The control group, however, showed no measurable improvement in fatigue or tiredness throughout the 16-week period.

The results demonstrated that subjects with fibromyalgia who slept on mattress pads containing permanent magnets delivering 200-600 Gauss to the skin surface for a 16-week period, when compared to sham controls, experienced statistically significant and clinically relevant pain reduction and sleep improvement. No adverse reactions were noted.

Who’s using magnets?

Therapeutic magnets have become very popular in the world of sports, where relief of muscle discomfort is paramount to success. Professional sports figures using various types of magnets include PGA golfer John Huston, Jim Colbert of the Senior PGA and the NFL’s Dan Marino.

Actor Patrick MacNee, star of television’s “The Avengers,” is another magnet enthusiast. He credits a magnetic knee therapy device with solving a 20-year problem of chronic pain in his knees.

Animal magnetism

The newest group to become “magnetized” are animals. One of the first applications of this specialized therapy was with racehorses following a strenuous workout or race. Special therapy blankets with magnets were shown to increase the blood flow and the body’s ability to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the injured area. In addition, magnets seemed to speed up the removal of toxins, such as lactic acid, by stimulating the lymph system. Magnetic collars for pets are available as are individual magnets for problem areas such as knees or hips. Clinical studies are under way at veterinary teaching hospitals. Initial reports are promising, indicating pets may find the same relief as their human counterparts with magnetic devices.

Karen Clark is a health writer. Additional research for this article was done by H&N staff.

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