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By Greg Pipes
Ever since the beginning of mankind people have been looking for ways to alleviate pain. Ancient methods of magic and rituals have been replaced by modern medicine and analgesics (painkillers). Still, there are many alternative forms of healing pain and discomfort. One such trend is the use of “ionized jewelry”, most commonly bracelets, to promote individual wellness. Do these bracelets really reduce pain and promote harmony within the body, or are they no more than a simple placebo?
I. What are Ionized Bracelets?
There are many types of ionized bracelets but almost all are made out of different metal alloys. These bracelets are then said to undergo an “ionization” process, which allows the bracelet to produce negative ions (http://www.ionic-health.com/q-ray_balance-bracelet.asp). The manufactures of ionized products, however, have not limited production to bracelets. Other ionized products include necklaces, rings, and earrings.
Who should use them?
Ionized bracelets are pitched toward people who are experiencing muscular discomfort or those who simply what to improve the balance of their natural energy. The use of the bracelet is said to alleviate discomfort associated with an imbalance of positive and negative ions within the body (http://www.raymabracelet.com/scienticinfo.html).
II. Types of Ionized Bracelets
Due to government regulations many web sites for ionized bracelets have been forced to remove certain language concerning the health benefits of ion bracelets. Listed below are the original statements before such action was taken.
The most commonly known ionized bracelet in the western world. Developed to restore the natural flow of positive and negative ions throughout the body. Q-ray marketed itself as the bracelet that would reduce an overabundance of positive ions, a problem that led to pain and discomfort (http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/PhonyAds/qray.html).
Markets itself as the only “scientifically proven and hypoallergenic bioelectric bracelet” and states that over twelve million have felt the therapeutic effects of Rayma. A precise electrical charge is said to be applied to the bracelet that regulates the normal electromagnetic flow throughout the body. Bracelet is said to last 18-36 months depending on the pH balance of the individual (http://www.raymabracelet.com/scienticinfo.html).
Once marketed to improve health, the current website contains only phrases such as “uses a process of Electropolarization… in order to develop its original performances”. This is most likely a product of regulation. Bio-ray bracelets cite that they are sealed in order to keep the “unipersonal character suited to their features” (http://ecom.bio-ray.org/shop.pl?action=ENTER&thispage=catalogo_in.html).
Other types of ion bracelets include the Balance bracelet and the newly introduced Tion:Z bracelets. While the advertisements say differing things all ion products are essentially the same and revolve around minus and plus ions.
III. Claims Made by Advertisements
This theory is the underlying basis for ion bracelets and relates strongly to the traditional theory of ancient Chinese acupuncture. This philosophy states that there are two distinct forces within the human body, Yin (negative ions) and Yang (positive ions). When the energy within the body is unbalanced it can result in discomfort and even debilitation. Ion theory is believed to regulate the imbalance of these two energies by providing negative ions to counterbalance the overabundance of positive ions. In this theory there is a distinct equilibrium of electromagnetic energy that, when upset, can cause adverse affects to the individual. The term “radioelectrical resonance” has also been coined to refer to the balancing of positive and negative ions. (http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/PhonyAds/qray.html).
How do Ion Bracelets work?
One way in which ion bracelets are said to work is act as a “resonator of electromagnetic waves”. Developed by several individuals including Hertz, Faraday, Maxwell, and Polo this metal spiral with a conductor on each end is meant to “improve human life through the proper balancing of positive and negative ions”. These ionized bracelets claim that they are engineered to offer low resistance to the “bioelectrical conductibility of the alpha and beta waves” which helps to discharge excess positive ions and retain negative ions. Based on the theories positive ions are said to cause numerous health problems including a sedentary life style and poor nutrition. A loss of negative ions results in stress and anxiety (http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/PhonyAds/qray.html).
Another, more complicated explanation is outlined by the makers of the Rayma bracelet
“By the principle of self-induction, the induced current has the opposite charge to the inducing current, so that the field produced by the induced current (in the case on the bracelet) tends to oppose the inducing or harmful current. An induction effect is set up between the organism and the bracelet. The organism induces certain energy onto the bracelet; if this energy is in the frequency band of the bracelet then the bracelet starts resonating, generating energy of opposite charge to that produced by the organic perturbation of affliction” (http://www.raymabracelet.com/scienticinfo.html)
This essentially means that if the individual is experiencing pain or discomfort the bad energy flows to the bracelet where good energy is released to maintain the balance. This process heals the organ or troubled area so that pain is reduced.
Because much of the scientific jargon associated with ionized bracelets is not intuitive, manufactures of the products have relied heavily on testimonials given by people who have used the bracelet and experienced positive results.
Prominent professional golfer who has had a successful career and is currently 12th in the world rankings (http://www.leewestwood.com/ism/sites/westwood/my-career.shtml).
“The repetitive nature of the golf swing puts tremendous stress and strains on the body, especially at the highest level. The wrist and hands particularly are recurring problem areas for a golfer and I have found the Rayma bracelet to be the best remedy” (http://www.healthbracelets.net/testimonials.htm).
IV. What does research say?
Mayo Clinic Research
In 2002 the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research reported a study entitled “Effect of “Ionized” Wrist Bracelets on Musculoskeletal Pain: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial.” The objective of the study was simple; to determine if these ionized bracelets actually reduced muscular or joint pain. Research cited the bracelet’s promotional information that a flow of energy, called “chi”, is created by the interaction of positive and negative ions. When “chi” is balanced individuals remain in both good physical and mental health.
Subjects who participated included 610 men and women of at least 18 years of age. All of these individuals had self-reported pain in either the hands, writs, neck, shoulders, elbows, back, knees, ankles, or feet. Both ion bracelets and identical placebo bracelets were provided by the Q-ray manufacture. The type of bracelet given to the patient was blind to the patient, experimenter, and manufacture.
305 participants wore ion bracelets and 305 wore a placebo bracelet. The participants recorded baseline pain ratings for each area where pain was present. Follow-up ratings were taken after 1, 3, 7, 14, 21, and 28 days. At the end of end of four weeks efficacy was evaluated on the basis of two different principals, the difference between the highest baseline value and the present score, and the difference between the total baseline pain and the present score.
The findings of this study reveled that there was a significant amount of pain reduction from day 1 to 28, but that there was no significant statistical difference between the two groups, ion bracelet and placebo. This means that the claims made by the manufactures of ion bracelets were essentially false advertising. As cited in the article “there is little objective evidence to support the effectiveness of most alternative methods,” including the ionized wrist bracelets (Bratton, R. L., Montero, D. P., Adams, K. S., Novas, M. A., McKay, T. C., et al. 2002). This study lead to a class action lawsuit against Q-ray in which the federal trade commission forced the company to remove all false advertising from the promotional information (http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2006/09/qray.shtm). Some limitations of this survey include that there was no “no bracelet” included in the study. This does not apply much to ionized bracelets but would have given a benchmark from which to measure the effectiveness of the placebo. Also the in future studies the timeline of the study could be increased to go beyond four weeks. This would ensure the results of this study over an extended period of time.
Columbia University Studies
In 1995 this study was developed to test the effects of negative ions as treatment for seasonal affective disorder. While this is study is not as directly applicable to the topic as the Mayo Clinic research it provides insight into the effects of negative ions on adverse health conditions. The study included 25 individuals who had been diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder, all who had experienced a minimum of two weeks depressed mood. Patients were provided with an apparatus that produced negative ions into the air, and were instructed to use this in their homes. Subjects were randomly assigned low or high ion density conditions. Treatment was administered for 20 days at 30 minute sessions shortly after waking in the morning.
Results of the study showed that high-density ion conditions reduced depression at a 60% rate among subjects, approximately the same as antidepressants. The study used standard depression rating scale assessments along with clinical impressions to observe changes. Low-density response to treatment was approximately 15% which the study considers to be a placebo effect. Overall the study concluded that there were positive health benefits to high-density ion conditions (Terman, M., Terman, J.S. 1995).
This research seems to give evidence that negative ions may in fact reduce depression, but fails to apply to ionized bracelets in many ways. First, the study only relates to the reduction of a depressive mood, not a reduced amount of muscular pain. Secondly, the results were found using a high-density negative ion emitter, which is much too large to fit on a bracelet. Finally, and most importantly, the federal district court of Chicago found that the bracelet had no more ability to produce negative ions than any other bracelet constructed of the same materials (http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2006/09/qray.shtm)
Ion bracelets are based on the theory that an adequate balance of positive and negative ions within the body is synonymous with a healthy individual. The claim, as revealed through promotional information, is that ion bracelets restore an imbalance of these ions. While there is some debate as to the positive effects of negative ions there has been no significant findings that equilibrium of ions reduces muscular pain. There has been an objective study that refutes the claim that such bracelets reduce health problems. The Mayo Clinic survey has shown through and extensive double blind study that ionized wrist bracelets have no more pain reducing power than a placebo bracelet. The problem that arises when observing ion bracelets is that they are not falsifiable, meaning that manufactures will attribute the bracelets inability to work to an array of varying factors that can not be controlled for. The bottom line is that these bracelets have no ability to produce negative ions, and even if they did there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that this would reduce muscular pain.
(2006, September 20). Court Rules In FTC's Favor In Q-Ray Bracelet Case. Retrieved October 7, 2008, from Federal Trade Commission Web site: http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2006/09/qray.shtm
(2007). Q-Ray Ionized Performance Bracelets. Retrieved October 7, 2008, from Ionic Health Web site: http://www.ionic-health.com/q-ray_balance-bracelet.asp
Barrett, S. (2008). Q-Ray Bracelet Marketed with Preposterous Claims. Retrieved October 10, 2008, from Quackwatch Web site:
Bratton, R. L., Montero, D. P., Adams, K. S., Novas, M. A., McKay, T. C., et al. (2002).Effect of "Ionized" Wrist Bracelets on Musculoskeletal Pain: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled
Trial. Mayo Clinic Preceding. 77, 1164-1168.
Live a Better Life Balance and Harmony. Retrieved October 7, 2008, from Rayma Web site: http://www.raymabracelet.com/scienticinfo.html
Marques, P. M. Catalogue. Retrieved October 7, 2008, from Bio-Ray Web site: http://ecom.bio-ray.org/shop.pl?action=ENTER&thispage=catalogo_in.html
My Career. Retrieved October 7, 2008, from Lee Westwood Web site: http://www.leewestwood.com/ism/sites/westwood/my-career.shtml
Terman, M., Terman, J.S. (1995).Treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder with a High-Output Negative Ionizer. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 1,
Who Wears Rayma. Retrieved October 7, 2008, from Rayma Web site: http://www.healthbracelets.net/testimonials.htm
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