An Introduction to Magnetic Therapy
An Introduction to Magnetic Therapy
Magnetic Therapy has risen greatly in popularity in the last three decades. As part in the general attention given to alternative medicine and drug-free palliative care, Magnet therapy (or magnotherapy) has blossomed into an industry worth an estimated five billion US dollars in 1999. It is safe to assume that with the advent of Internet shopping, this figure has risen exponentially ever since. Magnetic products can be roughly divided into static, permanent magnetic devices and pulsating magnetic fields. The former fills the vast majority of the magnet therapy market share, with products as diverse as magnetic bracelets, insoles, shoulder supports, hairbrushes and magnetic water cups. These static magnets promote varying strengths of the magnets (gauss/ mTesla) as well as varying shapes, sizes and polarities. Pulsating magnetic fields have come to the fore in recent years, with low-frequency pulsed electromagnetic fields (PEMF) being used in the NHS and in hospitals across the Far East. Recently, media attention has been drawn to the Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) device that has proved highly effective in initial studies in reducing the symptoms of aura-related migraines. Both static and pulsating magnetic treatments have been marketed across a wide range of medical conditions, but widely advertise products as a non-invasive treatment for chronic pain. In particular, Osteoarthritis, Fibromyalgia and chronic back pain feature widely in studies and marketing campaigns based around magnet therapy. Promoted heavily by celebrity sportspeople, notably PGA golfers, magnetic muscle supports and bracelets have become increasingly commonplace in professional circles. Indeed, popularity of magnetic devices is not limited to the humans, with both pulsating and static magnets being marketed towards our four-legged friends. Notably, magnetic horse jackets and PEMF devices have received publicity having been used on premier racehorses in the belief that magnets promote circulation, muscle-oxygen content and reduce the chance of injury. With such bold beneficial claims, the question remains as to whether this expensive form of alternative therapy is bolstered by scientific fact. This study will aim to outline research conducted into magnetic therapy (those available with English translation). In the absence of a firm scientific explanation as to the biochemical (or biophysical) pathways of magnetic treatment, the majority of research has been conducted as a randomised, double blind, placebo-controlled study into a sample groups. Many of these studies have revealed positive results of stronger gauss magnetic devices when compared to sham or low-strength magnets. However, as will be discussed further into this study, there are serious misgivings about the ability for a fully blinded study to exist where magnets are concerned. Whilst the effect of placebo on pain cannot be fully discounted, it remains that there is compelling evidence to suggest that magnetic therapy can be an effective part of a therapy regime. There is much still to be investigated before magnet therapy becomes accepted into the scientific fold. For one, conflicting and nonsensical theory as to the mechanisms of magnetic therapy has done much to muddy the water (for instance the assertion that magnets act upon iron in the blood). As such, further investigation is needed into the effect of varying magnetic fields have on the body; whether application site is important and whether pulsating field therapy deserves greater use in the rehabilitation of injury (FDA approved for use on fractures). As such, this discussion shall demonstrate that magnetic therapy, despite its long pedigree, is greatly under- investigated. The phrase “alternative therapy” seems somewhat of a misnomer, as it is apparent that magnetic therapy is best used as part of conventional medical...
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