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What is known from the scientific evidence about the effectiveness of magnets in treating pain?

Overall, the research findings so far do not firmly support claims that magnets are effective for treatment of pain.

Findings from Reviews of Scientific Studies

Reviews take a broad look at the findings from a group of individual research studies. Such reviews are usually either a general review, a systematic review, or a meta-analysis. There are not many reviews available on CAM uses of magnets to treat pain. Appendix II provides examples of six reviews published from August 1999 through August 2003 in English in the National Library of Medicine's MEDLINE database.

  • Often, these reviews compared what is known from the clinical trials of magnets for painful conditions to what is known from conventional treatments or from other CAM treatments for the same condition(s).

  • One review found that static magnetic therapy may work for certain conditions but that there is not adequate scientific support to justify its use.1

  • Three reviews found that electromagnetic therapy showed promise for the treatment of some, but not all, painful conditions, and that more research is needed.9,19,20 One of these reviews also looked at two randomized clinical trials (RCTs) of static magnets.9 One reported significant pain relief in subjects using magnets, but the other did not.

  • Another review concluded that TMS has an effect on the central nervous system that might relieve chronic pain and, therefore, should be studied further.14

  • The remaining review found no studies on magnets for neck pain and stated that rigorous studies are much needed.21

  • It is important to note that the reviews pointed out problems with the rigor of most research on magnets for pain.9,14,19,20 For example, many of the clinical trials involved a very small number of participants, were conducted for very short durations (e.g., one study applied a magnet a total of one time for 45 minutes), and/or lacked a placebo or sham group for comparison to the magnet group.19,20 Thus, the results of many trials may not be truly meaningful. Most reviews stated that more and better quality research is needed before magnets' effectiveness can be adequately judged.

Findings from Clinical Trials

The studies in Appendix III give an overview of scientific research from 15 RCTs published in English from January 1997 through March 2004 and cataloged in the National Library of Medicine's MEDLINE database. These trials studied CAM uses of static magnets or electromagnets for various kinds of pain.

  • The results of trials of static magnets have been conflicting. Four of the nine static magnet trials analyzed found no significant difference in pain relief from using a magnet compared with sham treatment or usual medical care.7,8,22,23 Four trials did find a significant difference, with greater benefit seen from magnets.24-27 The remaining trial compared only a weaker strength magnet to a stronger magnet, and found benefit from both (there was no difference between groups in how much benefit).28

  • Trials of electromagnets yielded more consistent results. Five out of six trials found that these magnets significantly reduced pain.10,11,17,18,29 The sixth found a significant benefit to physical function from using electromagnets, but not to pain or stiffness.30

  • Some study authors suggested that a placebo effect could have been responsible for the pain relief that occurred from magnets.22,30

  • While criticizing many of these studies, it is fair to say that testing magnets in clinical trials has presented challenges. For example, it can be difficult to design a sham magnet that appears exactly like an active magnet. Also, there has been concern about how many participants have tried to determine whether they have been assigned an active magnet (for example, by seeing whether a paperclip would be attracted to it); this knowledge could affect how meaningful a trial's results are.

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Medical Warning& Copyright Info: For Ages 13+ This product is NOT being sold as a Medical Device or to replace professionally prescribed Medical treatment. Consult your Doctor before use. DO NOT USE IF YOU ARE PREGNANT, WEAR A PACEMAKER, OR ANY OTHER FORM OF ELECTRICAL IMPLANT OR DEVICE FOR MEDICAL REASONS OF ANY KIND. >> Click here for more information

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