Questions over 'healing effect' of magnets

January 05, 2006

Patients should be advised that magnet therapy has no proved benefits, and that any healing effect is likely to be small, say US researchers in this week's BMJ.

Magnetic devices that are claimed to be therapeutic include magnetic bracelets, insoles, wrist and knee bands, back and neck braces, and even pillows and mattresses. Annual sales are estimated at more than a billion dollars globally.

But Professors Leonard Finegold and Bruce Flamm argue that many studies of magnet therapy are suspect because it is difficult to blind subjects to the presence of a magnet. They suggest that money spent on expensive and unproved magnet therapy might be better spent on evidence based medicine.

More importantly, self treatment with magnets may result in an underlying medical condition being left untreated, they warn.

Magnets are touted by successful athletes, allowed to be widely advertised, and sold without restrictions, so it is not surprising that lay people think that claims of therapeutic efficacy are reasonable, they write. However - even theoretically - magnet therapy seems unrealistic.

Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence. Patients should be advised that magnet therapy has no proved benefits. If they insist on using a magnetic device they could be advised to buy the cheapest - this will at least alleviate the pain in their wallet, the authors conclude.
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BMJ

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