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How does magnet therapy help arthritis?

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Updated February 14, 2005

Question: How does magnet therapy help arthritis?
More and more is being written about the use of magnets as a treatment for arthritis. Static magnet therapy is believed to relieve pain by increasing circulation. The effectiveness of arthritis magnet therapy for relieving pain is still in question. How does magnet therapy help arthritis?
Answer: Magnet therapy has many followers who claim spectacular results with carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, and arthritis. This alternative healing method has been used since the middle ages. The application of magnets to a particular area of the body is believed to realign the body's electromagnetic field. The medical establishment, by and large, remains skeptical. Researchers at the New York College of Podiatric Medicine have reported negative results in a study of patients with heel pain. Over a 4-week period, 19 patients wore a molded insole containing a magnetic foil, while 15 patients wore the same type of insole with no magnetic foil. In both groups, 60% reported improvement, which suggests that the magnetic foil conveyed no benefit.

Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston have conducted a double-blind test comparing the effects of magnets and sham magnets on the knee pain of 50 patients who had had poliomyelitis. The 29 who received an active magnet reported a significantly greater reduction in pain than the 21 treated with a sham magnet. Whether this finding can be repeated and whether magnets can relieve pain in other types of patients remains to be seen. In my opinion, there is still a legitimate question as to whether small static magnets can influence the course of any disease. (Answer provided by the late Dr. Raymond Federman, aka Dr. Bones, who passed away on September 2, 2003. The care of his patients even in retirement was always his joy.)

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