If you've ever played around with magnets before, even if you've only used them to hang the grocery list on your fridge, you know how powerful they are. Magnets of all sizes and strengths are used pick up objects ranging in size from minute to massive.
But what if magnets could essentially "pick up" your pain to help you find relief? This is the idea behind magnetic therapy, a type of alternative therapy that may be able to help with pain management.
How Does It Work?
The body has several magnetic fields and many of the body's functions are the result of magnetic activity. Muscle contractions and nerve function both result from magnetic activity. The practice of magnetic therapy is founded in the idea those magnetic fields within the body can become unbalanced due to disease or injury, and that the use of magnets outside the the body can correct this.
Magnetic therapy uses much stronger magnets than those you have on your refrigerator in your kitchen. The strength of a magnet is measured in gauss (G). A magnet used on the fridge is typically about 200 G in strength, while magnets used therapeutically can be up to 10,000 G, according to WebMD.
In order to experience the pain-relief benefits, patients place a magnet either directly on the skin or wear one close to the skin. This is known as static magnetic field therapy (SMF), which is the most common form of treatment. Magnetic patches and jewelry containing magnets are popular discreet ways to undergo the therapy while still carrying on your everyday life. Some conditions magnetic therapy is used for include:
The use of magnets for therapeutic purposes dates back several centuries. The therapy saw a more recent surge of popularity in the 1970s. There have been published studies related to the use of magnets for the treatment of pain, however, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not recognized SMF as a proven effective pain management method at this time.
A 2009 critical review of SMF published in the medical journal Evidence-Based Contemporary and Alternative Medicine found there were some positive results in past studies, but with no standard strength of magnet established for a specific condition, no clear way to measure a placebo effect, and few human trials, more work needs to be done to make an exact determination.
SMF has also been searched for the treatment of nerve pain, which is a condition common among those living with diabetes. A 2003 study published in the Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation involving 375 participants with diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN), however, did involve a placebo and produced some exciting results. Patients wore shoe insoles for four months that were either magnetized at a strength of 450 G or similar insoles that weren't magnetic. It was discovered the magnetic fields were able to penetrate 20 mm into the body and achieve pain relief over time.
Additional Uses for Magnetic Therapy
Magnetic therapy has become extremely popular alternative treatment for healthy management. There are a variety of other conditions for which individuals may use magnets. Examples include incontinence, erectile dysfunction (ED), insomnia, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Major studies are currently lacking to back up the use of magnets in these cases. More research is needed to determine the exact action and benefit of magnets in relation to these conditions.
If you suffer from any of the conditions mentioned here, magnetic therapy is a treatment worth investigating further on your own and with your physician. You can also speak to a naturopathic doctor about it.
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