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Arthritis and Magnetic Treatment:

Is this alternative treatment as attractive as it seems?


Jonnisa Ferguson


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What is Arthritis?


            Arthritis is a physical disease that impacts the psychological, emotional, and economic


areas of life for nearly 40 million Americans. In fact, The National Arthritis Data Workgroup of


the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases predicts the current


statistic of one in seven Americans suffering from this disease will rise to 60 million by the year


2020 ( For some, it might cause


stiffness in the morning and for others it may lead to one being crippled or disabled. The Roman


Emperor Diocletian understood the severity of the disease and exempted severe arthritic afflicted


people from paying taxes because the “disease itself can be taxing enough”


( .


            Arthritis causes pain and swelling in the joints. Joints- areas of two joints meeting- could


be profoundly damaged over time. Other forms of arthritis could target the eyes, chest, and skin.


All of the aforementioned problems could be caused by inflammation (swelling that involves


pain or redness). The two most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid. The


most common is osteoarthritis, which affects hips, knees, and fingers and usually comes  with


aging.  However, not all of the 16 million sufferers are 65 and older. Sports injuries could lead to


the onset of osteoarthritis. On the other hand, rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the defense


system of the body does not operate correctly. According to NIAMS, this form of arthritis affects


2.5 million people and usually includes individuals within the 20 and 50 age range and may also


appear in adolescence (


            Arthritis causes pain and may include other symptoms such as: fever, weight loss,


breathing problems, and itchiness or rashes. These symptoms could be signs or symptoms of


other diseases and illnesses. Therefore, one should consult a physician who could make the


proper diagnosis.



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Treatments for Arthritis



    After a physician’s diagnosis, a prescription for alleviating the pain, swelling, and


stiffness might be given. According to Earl Brewer, M.D. and Kathy Angel, there are two groups


of medications used to treat people: NSAIDs ( nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and second-


line drugs. NSAIDs are the first-line drugs because they are typically safer, but the second-line


drugs might be added. These first-line drugs include “aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Nuprin, Motrin,


Rufen), Tolectin, Naprosyn, Orudis, Indocin, Feldene, Voltaren, Nalfon, Relafen, and Clinoril”


and the second-line drugs are “ methotrexate, gold, d-penicillamine, hydroxychloroquine,


sulfasalazine, and cytotoxic medicines”




            According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease,


doctors might suggest other therapeutic measures in addition to medication. The suggested


activities are warm showers, gentle stretching exercise, placing ice packs on sore areas, and



letting the sore joint rest (


However, other techniques and products continually appear on the market for consumers.


            Along with traditional methods, alternative treatments and products are available.


According to Carol Sorgen of WebMD, alternative therapies fit every little of the alphabet


between A and Z. Therapies range from acupuncture to zinc sulfate with copper bracelets,


magnets, yoga, and so many more in between


(  In 1999, Gay Frankenfield, RN


reported the Arthritis Foundation stated that two-thirds of the 43 million arthritis sufferers tried


some alternative therapy. One of these alternative therapies became very visible amongst youth


and elderly alike - this therapy is the arthritis bracelet. Whether copper or magnetic, these


bracelets have come to be a common accessary. However, the magnetic bracelet seems to be


more popular.




Magnets, what are they?


            Magnets are objects that produce energy that is called magnetic fields. The power of


attraction is strongest at the ends of the magnets- north and south poles- and this property is


called polarity. These poles attract one another, but the north pole will repel another north pole


and the south pole reacts in the same way. The strength of magnets vary, but the units of


measurement-gauss (G)- remain the same. The magnets targeted to consumers for health uses are


mostly static or permanent magnets. The magnetic fields of these magnets do not change. Static


magnets are usually created from iron, alloys, steel, or rare-earth metals. These magnets are


placed on objects or materials that have close contact with skin, such as the magnet bracelet. One



pole of the magnet may touch the skin, which is a unipolar magnet, or two poles may touch the


skin, which is bipolar. Even though companies may say that one is better than the other, it has yet


to be proven by scientific inquiry. The rest of the magnets are electromagnets that generate


magnetic fields when electric currents flow through them.


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History of magnetic therapy to treat pain



            The use of magnets to treat pain has existed for numerous centuries. Some accounts tell


that people began to use magnets when the existence of lodestones- natural magnetized stones-


was observed. Other sources say that the use of magnets can be traced to a shepherd who noticed


some stones pulled the nails out of his shoes. Greek physicians formed magnetized metals into


rings worn to treat arthritis and stopped bleeding by taking pills formed from magnetized amber.


During the Middle ages, treatments for gout, arthritis, and baldness, the probing and cleaning of


wounds, and the retrieving of objects that contained iron and arrowheads from bodies were all


completed using metals.


            Following the Civil War, magnets in hairbrushes, insole, and clothes and magnetic salves


were widely used In the United States. Healers proclaimed magnets restored magnetic fields in


the body.  Magnets were marketed as curing numerous conditions that included seizures, cancer,


paralysis, and blindness. From the 20th century until the present, companies tout magnets as


treatments for various diseases and conditions, such as: arthritis, headaches, pain, and stress.




Magnets as alternative medicine


            In a 1999 survey of patients suffering from fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid


arthritis and seen by rheumatologists, 18 percent of the patients used bracelets of copper or


magnet. The bracelet was the second-most popular Complementary and alternative medicine


(CAM). Many consumers purchase bracelets-without the consultancy of a health care provider-


on the World Wide Web or in stores. In fact, these purchases reach $500 million dollars in


America and an astounding $5 billion dollars worldwide.


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What are the theories about magnets and who creates them?



            Some theories are promoted by scientific researchers and others by the companies that


produce and sell the magnets. The theories of the functions of magnets include:


1. The functioning of cells might be changed by static magnets.


2. Might alter or restore the balance of the death and growth of cells.


3. Static magnets possibly increase blood flow, which would increase the travel of oxygen and         

    nutrients. This would happen because blood contains iron and this might enable blood to               

    conduct magnetic energy.


4. How nerve cells respond to pain could be affected by electromagnets that are weak pulsed.


5. The brain’s perception of pain might be changed by pulsed electromagnets.


6. The production of the white blood cells used in fighting inflammation and infections might be


    affected by electromagnets.




How does the use of static magnets fair in the ability to ease pain?


1.         Tim Harlow, Colin Greaves, Adrian White, Liz Brown, Anna Hart, and Edzard Ernst


decided to observe the affect of magnetic bracelets in a study featured in British Medical


Journal.  Their goals was to determine the effectiveness of the magnetic bracelets marketed for


pain control in osteoarthritis of the hip and knee. Over a two year time span (December 2001-


December 2003), 194 participants between the ages of 45 and 80 who were professionally


diagnosed with osteoarthritis of the knee and hip were found. Those who already used magnetic


bracelets, had a cardiac pacemaker, received surgery to the index joint, women who were


pregnant or breast feeding, and those with haemophilia were excluded from the study. Three


randomly assigned conditions were presented: one group received bracelets with standard-


strength magnetic fields, the second group received bracelets containing magnets that were very


weak, and the third group received bracelets that had nonmagnetic steel washers. The


participants, healthcare providers, and trial nurse did not know how the bracelets were


distributed. The symptoms before and after the bracelets were rated using a standardized pain


scoring system. The usual pain management treatment of the participants were continued during


the experiment so that the magnet’s effects would be an addition. The results showed that the


strong magnets helped the participants. The standard magnetic bracelet’s average pain score was


1.3 points lower than the bracelets in group three. However, it is unclear whether the


improvements derived from magnets or the placebo effect. The participants could have noticed


whether they wore the magnetized bracelets if objects were attracted to their bracelet. Also, the


participants were mostly Caucasian, therefore, other studies need to be conducted that include


other ethnic groups.


2. NCCAM produced a review of a study by Wolsko et al., and this research used static magnets


in a sleeve instead of a bracelet. However, the sleeve and the bracelet both have contact with the


skin and should have similar effects. The research involved outpatient clinical studies . The study



included a placebo control. The 26 participants with osteoarthritis of the knee were given a


sleeve with magnets or a sleeve without magnets that looked identical to the magnetized sleeve.


The sleeves were worn for the first four hours and for the next six weeks they were worn for at


least six hours a day. Using a standardized index pain scale, the knee pain was measured at the


four hour, 1 week, and 6 week time frames. At the four hour measurement, the pain


measurements differed greatly. The pain decreased 79+/- 18mm in the magnet sleeve and 10+/-


21 mm in the placebo. However, at the one week and six week measurements, the pain


measurements did not have statistically significant values. At the conclusion of the experiment,


the 77% of the placebo group thought they had the magnet sleeve and 69% of the magnet sleeve


participants thought they had the magnet sleeve. The ideas about which group they were in could


have impacted their expectations and affected their belief about pain.




3. NCCAM produced a review of a study by Segal. Et al., and this research observes how


magnetic devices can decrease pain. 64 participants over the age of eighteen with rheumatoid


arthritis of the knee were randomly assigned magnetic devices. One device contained four strong


magnets and the other contained one weaker magnet. There was no placebo treatment given to


the participants. The devices were worn for one week and the measures of pain were taken from


the diaries of the participants where they assessed their pain levels twice a day. Both devices


showed statistically significant pain reduction for one week of use. There was not a significant


difference of pain levels between the groups. However, a placebo device would lead to a more


helpful characterization of static magnetic therapy treating rheumatoid arthritis.




Should consumers buy magnet bracelets?


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    Arthritis sufferers should be careful when choosing methods of treatment or the relief of


arthritis pain. Consultations with physicians and their proper prescribing of medications remain


vital and integral in the treatment of arthritis and decreasing or controlling the accompanied pain.


The scientific research of alternative treatment has not concretely confirmed the conclusion that


magnets can decrease or relieve pain. However, there have not been any noted negative effects if


used properly. In reference to clinical trials, the results produced have been conflicting. However,


the conflict could exist due to the need for studies of better quality. Also, the FDA or U.S. Food


and Drug Administration has not approved magnets that are marketed with claims of health


benefits. In fact, the FDA and FTC (Federal Trade Commission) have taken action against a


number of  Web sites, distributors, and manufacturers.


            If consumers do decide that they would like to use an alternative treatment, they should


consult their physician. This will help to make sure the course of care is safe and coordinated.


Consumers should be aware that some conditions or treatments disable the use of magnetic


bracelets. If a physician does agree with the consumer’s desire for alternative treatment, then


the consumer should research manufacturing companies and look for certain information and


take the following steps:


1. Check the reputation of the company with consumer protection agencies.


2. Look for high return fees. If the consumer notices them before the purchase, then ask for the


    fee to be dropped and obtain a confirmation that this will happen.


3. If possible, pay for the product, generally $25 or more, with a credit card.


4. Avoid purchasing products that are not based in the US. If you buy from these Web sites,



    then U.S. law can not do very much to protect you if a problem arises from the product.







1. Harlow, T. Et al. Randomized Controlled Trial of Magnetic Bracelets for Relieving Pain in

    Osteoarthritis of the Hip and Knee. British Medical Journal. 2004 Dec 18-25;329(7480):1450-      4.


2. Segal NA, Toda Y, Huston J, et al. Two configurations of static magnetic fields for treating


    rheumatoid arthritis of the knee: a double-blind clinical trial. Archives of Physical Medicine


    and Rehabilitation. 2001;82(10):1453-1460.


3. Wolsko PM, Eisenberg DM, Simon LS, et al. Double-blind placebo-controlled trial of static


    magnets for the treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee: results of a pilot study. Alternative


   Therapies in Health and Medicine. 2004;10(2):36-43.


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