According to the National Center for Alternative and Complementary Medicine (NCAAM), magnets have been used for many centuries to treat pain. Also, the NCAAM says that a 1999 survey showed that 18 percent of patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis or fibromyalgia used magnetic therapy as part of their treatment, even though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn't approved magnetic therapies. Understanding how pulsed electromagnetic therapy works, as well as its possible dangers and side effects, can help you determine if this treatment is right for you.
Used in alternative medicine therapies to relieve pain, magnets produce a type of energy called a magnetic field. Because magnets possess polarity, the magnet's strongest power of attraction is at its opposite ends, which are usually called north and south poles. Magnets come in different strengths or gauss (G). According to NCCAM, magnets used for the treatment of pain are generally between 300 and 5,000 G.
During pulsed magnetic therapy, a magnetic field is created when the electrical current is turned off and on quickly.
The NCAAM says that magnets, including pulse magnets, are generally considered safe and side effects for magnetic therapy are rare. Some people do notice, though, that they experience redness or bruising where the magnet is applied.
NCAAM says that pulsed magnetic therapy may prove to be dangerous to certain groups of people, however. Magnet therapy shouldn't be used by pregnant women, as the effects on the fetus aren't known. Also, those who use devices such as a pacemaker, defibrillator or an insulin pump should avoid the products because magnet therapy could interfere with the magnetically controlled features of these devices. Also, those who use a medication that is delivered through a patch could experience negative effects from pulse electromagnetic therapy. Magnets affect blood dilation, which can affect the delivery of medications.
Manufacturers of pulsed magnetic therapy claim that it helps to relieve pain, improve sleep function and restore and balance healthy cell growth and function. Pulsed magnetic therapy may affect how nerve cells respond to pain and might change the brain's perception of pain. Also, because blood contains iron, some manufacturers say that magnets may act as conductors, increasing blood flow and delivering more nutrients and oxygen to the body.
The NCCAM says that research on the efficacy of pulsed magnetic therapy and other types of magnet therapy has been mixed in its findings. NCCAM says that overall some studies have been done to show that magnets may be helpful in reducing pain; however, the difference hasn't been significant enough to constitute widespread used of magnetic therapy.
On the other hand, findings from the department of anesthesiology and pain medicine at the Seoul National University College of Medicine in Korea suggest that pain relief from pulsed electromagnetic therapy may be significant, and the researchers recommend its use for the management of chronic lower back pain. In their study, 17 participants received pulsed magnetic therapy and 19 were given a placebo. After three weeks, those who received the treatment claimed higher levels of pain relief that those who did not.
Because pulsed magnetic therapy may cause interactions with other medications, always discuss its use with your health-care provider, so he or she can help to coordinate your care.
Also, the NCCAM says that magnetic therapy benefits are often seen quickly, so make sure to purchase a magnet with a 30-day warranty, so if you don't notice any benefit or if you experience adverse effects, you can return the product for a refund.