Recently, a number of articles have been published on static magnetic therapy. Static magnetic therapy is the placement of a magnet field on or near the body to enhance healing, relieve pain and improve body function. The idea of magnetism is not new. Early Chinese medical literature claimed healing properties for lodestrone, a naturally magnetic mineral. For centuries, static magnetic therapy has been used by eastern practitioners to relieve pain and swelling, and to induce healing. Since the 1950's, numerous Japanese studies have been conducted on the effectiveness of magnetic fields for treating various conditions. Many magnetic devices are registered with the Japanese Welfare Ministry as medical devices, after undergoing clinical testing at accredited medical institutions to verify their safety and effectiveness.
For many years, the Magnetic Health Science Foundation has been meeting annually in Japan to report on the growing body of evidence of the scientific technology of magnetic research. To date, there are now over 300 published articles on magnetic research.
But, do magnets really work? The answer may lie in understanding the laws of physics, and in reviewing recent scientific evidence.
We are energetic beings surrounded by naturally generated electromagnetic energy, fields of energy which are created by the spinning and moving of electrons and charged particles within the cell.
Some of the early awareness of the importance of electromagnetic energy fields was discovered when the Russian cosmonauts first spent long periods of time on board the Mir space station; they became sick. Their illnesses appeared to be caused by the lack of contact with the magnetic field surrounding the earth. Once the Russian space station was equipped with a magnetism generator, the symptoms disappeared.
All cells within the body are ordered by magnetism; the atoms and molecules are tiny magnets with a positive and negative pole. All communication within the body occurs through electric currents and the electromagnetic frequencies they generate.
According to the laws of physics, the first law of electromagnetism states that if an electron or other charged particle is moving it generates a magnetic field. The corollary to this rule is that if an electron or charged particle encounters a magnetic field it must move.
So how does this apply to magnetic therapy, healing, and pain? When a person is injured, the body immediately reacts to restore the body to its natural balanced state. In brief, the injured tissue produces a chemical reaction whereby acids are released and chemicals are brought to the injured site to begin a healing process. This chemical reaction leads to swelling which causes pain.
The theory is that when a magnetic field is placed at or near the injured site the electromagnetic field induces a current or charge in the tissues in the body. This charge causes the toxins (acids and other chemicals) to move, the toxins are removed and excreted, and a natural healing state ensues. As this change occurs, the blood flow to the injured site is improved, the swelling is reduced, and pain is alleviated.
Some scientists believe that magnetic therapy causes the body to dispose of waste materials (toxins) more quickly and speeds up the healing process. Numerous studies have been conducted on the effects of static magnetic therapy in Asia and Europe. Recently, scientists in the US have begun reporting their results of the effectiveness of magnetic fields.
Magnetic therapy has been found to be effective in alleviating burning, numbness and tingling, and exercise induced foot pain in patients with diabetic neuropathy (Weintraub 1998, 1999, 2003); in alleviating neuropathic pain in patients with carpal tunnel syndrome (Weintraub & Cole 2000); in alleviating pain in people suffering from osteoarthritis in the knees and hips (Harlow 2004, Hinman 2002, Pipitone 2001, Wosko 2004); and in other chronic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis (Segal 2001), fibromyalgia (Alfono 2001, Thomas 2001) and chronic back pain (Collacott 2000).
Although the scientific research in the United States is still in the early stages compared to the Asian and European studies, static magnetic therapy has been shown to have no detrimental side effects and has great promise for those suffering from chronic painful conditions.
Jeanette M. Conner PhD, MS, MN, ARNP
Dr. Conner is the President and Director of the Maya Center for Integrated Medicine & Research in Shelburne Vermont; a health and wellness center focused on providing comprehensive traditional and complementary services while encouraging individual healing through self care. Dr. Conner is an Associate Professor of Clinical Research at Dartmouth Medical School, Department of Community & Family Medicine. She has conducted clinical research in health care for over 10 years, and now focuses her efforts on teaching others to promote their health and heal illness through the use of mind-body-spirit medicine.