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Magnetic Treatment For Pain: Does It Work?

The use of magnet therapy for pain relief has long been viewed by the medical community with some degree of skepticism. After all, how can a simple magnet be an alternative to the high powered pain medications that are now available? Despite these doubts, there's some evidence that magnet therapy may be more effective than originally believed. Is magnetic treatment for pain treatment really worthwhile?

Although magnetic treatment for pain hasn't been approved by the FDA, medical magnets are still big business with prices for a single magnet ranging from a few dollars to almost a thousand. Generally, more expensive magnets have higher magnetic strength which is measured in units called gauss. A magnet with a higher gauss is thought to be more effective for relieving pain.

What kind of pain have magnets been used to treat? Magnetic treatment has been used for conditions ranging from back pain to arthritis. Although there have been few large studies looking at the effectiveness of magnetic treatment for pain, several smaller studies have shown encouraging results. One study showed that magnetic treatment for post-polio leg pain resulted in greater symptom relief than did a sham magnet. Studies have also shown some benefit of magnets for treating the pain of fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetic neuropathy. In an experiment on rats, it was shown that use of magnetic therapy for pain resulted in reduced swelling at the site of injury.

How might something as simple as a magnetic relieve pain? No one knows for sure, but there are a variety of theories. It's thought that when magnetic therapy for pain is used, it alters the electrical activity of the neurons which transmit pain. This reduces the pain messages sent to the brain. It's also speculated that magnets help to relax blood vessels increases blood flow to the painful area thereby providing more pain relieving nutrients and oxygen.

The bottom line? Should you buy into the idea of magnetic treatment for pain? While there certainly isn't enough evidence to justify purchasing a thousand dollar magnet, if you happen to have a less expensive magnet available there's little harm in giving it a try. Most experts recommend applying the magnet directly over the painful region. You can apply a gauze wrap over the top to keep it in place. If it works, you should experience reduced pain within several days. You should definitely avoid magnetic treatment for pain if you wear a pacemaker or other electrical device, an insulin pump, or are pregnant.

By Kristie Leong M.D. - I m a family physician with a strong interest in disease prevention and alternative medicine. I m particularly interested in how diet plays a role in disease prevention. Hope I can inspire someone to lead a...  

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