A Strong Attraction to the Medical Benefits of Magnetism

October 17, 2010 |

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Observe a child playing with magnets and it becomes quickly apparent that we humans have a strong fascination with the seemingly magic properties of magnetic materials. As a result, it is not all surprising that medicine has attempted to make use of magnetic materials and magnetism since ancient times. Hippocrates wrote, around 400 BC, about the uses of magnetite and hematite, two magnetic minerals, for the treatment of bleeding while Sucruta, an ancient Indian surgeon from 600 BC, used the material to help extract iron arrowheads from his patients.

How Have Magnets Been Used For Medicine In The Past?

While such treatments had some measure of effectiveness, they were by no means a strong endorsement of the medical value of magnetic materials or magnetism. However throughout history, snake oil salesmen and well-meaning individuals alike have attempted to promote the values of magnetic materials in treating all manner of medical conditions. Crushed magnets used in a plaster were promoted as a means to cure headaches while magnets were used to try to cure pain and to extract poison from the body. Needless to say, there is little to no scientific evidence to indicate the value of such medical uses of magnetic material.

How Effective Are The Magnetic Products That Are Currently Sold?

Despite this lack of evidence, the sale of magnetic products, such as bracelets to eliminate pain, has become a $4 to 5 billion worldwide industry. In an effort to understand if such products hold any value for patients, researchers at a number of universities including the University of York performed a rigorous double-blind placebo-based trial involving commercially available bracelets. What they found was that using these products made no measurable difference in patient mobility, stiffness or pain.

Their observations also lead them to the conclusion that patients usually buy these devices when they are in significant pain and when other treatments have not worked. As a result, when the stiffness and pain decreases for any number of reasons, patients associate these changes with the effects of such products. Unfortunately for many people, this is enough proof that such products have value.

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Category: General Health, Medical Research, Medical Treatment

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