Magnetic Pain Therapy: A Fool And His Money

I snapped this at the County Fair the other day, and the proprietors weren’t exactly happy that I was taking pictures. Not only was I surprised to see someone still attempting this rip-off, I was more surprised to see people falling for it.

I guess there IS a sucker born every minute.

Full story inside.

For many years the belief that ‘magnet therapy’ could relieve pain and even cure serious illness has persisted, even though established medical science has completely discredited the practice. With the exception of one study conducted at Baylor in 1997, every other study conducted (over a dozen) has shown that magnet therapy has, at best, a ‘placebo effect’.

Since the results of the Baylor study were never verified, and most certainly never repeated, that study is highly suspect.

Proponents of the treatment will be quick to tell you that the process works by attracting the iron in blood towards the magnet, thus increasing blood flow.

There are some problems with this ‘theory’:

  • The iron in your blood is bonded to hemoglobin, rendering it magnetically inert.
  • The magnets included in therapy kits are far too weak to penetrate the human skin, let alone reach joints that may be experiencing pain.

Magnet fans will also tell you that blood flow is optimized by the magnets lining up water molecules in your blood. This could theoretically be possible, if a strong enough magnet were applied, and then only in the smallest of capillaries in your body. The big problem with this idea is that it would take a magnet two or three thousand times the strength of the strongest man-made magnet on Earth.

Certainly you wouldn’t see that effect from a $1 refrigerator magnet in your sock.

If you think I’m mistaken about this, I have some simple tests for you to perform.

First, test the effect of magnetism on human blood. This will require you to be a little brave. Stretch a sheet of plastic wrap over the end of an empty paper towel roll (you know, the cardboard tube). Use a sterile pin to extract a drop of blood from your finger onto the plastic wrap. Next, take a magnet and attach it to the end of a pencil, insert it in the tube, and wiggle it around near the drop of blood.

You’ll notice the drop of blood will be unaffected.

Try it again with a paper clip in place of the blood, it WILL be affected.

You can do this, or you can take my word for it; I’ve tried the process, and those were the results I obtained.

Thinking that maybe it’s such a subtle effect that we’re just not noticing it? Try this instead: Take the strongest magnet you can find, and attach it to the underside of your forearm with a sports bandage (you know, stretchy cloth bandage). Leave it there overnight. When you wake in the morning, you may have an outline of the magnet, but you won’t have a bruise or marked redness.

Why should that be evident? Because if blood were attracted to a magnetic field you would see redness or more likely bruising because the blood had been drawn to the surface in the shape of the magnet.

You won’t see this though… I tried it. But hey, why take my word for it? If blood really was effected by magnetic fields, you would certainly EXPLODE during an MRI exam. Or didn’t you know that an MRI exposes you to an insanely strong magnetic field? This is why they won’t let you wear metal jewelry in one.

The last thing you should try is the penetration power of magnets. Magnet power is measured in ‘Gauss’. An average magnet used in a therapy kit is 50-60 Gauss… the same as a typical refrigerator magnet.

The human skin is thicker than you think, about the same thickness as 10 pieces of type paper stacked in most spots.

Take a refrigerator magnet and try to attach 10 pieces of type paper to your fridge. You probably won’t even see an effect of magnetism at all through the paper.

To get a magnet strong enough to extend a field deep enough to have an effect (if it even would, because we know it wouldn’t), it would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and certainly wouldn’t fit in an in-sole that you’d wear like an Odor Eater.

While there have been promising studies done with large electro-magnets in pulse mode on accelerating bone growth on recent bone breaks, this is attributed to the ‘pulse’ of the magnet, the electrical field being created, and no link to a ‘steady’ natural magnetic field could be found. It also has nothing to do with your blood being affected by magnets.

If your feelings are hurt right now because you bought into this myth, I ask you to take a deep breath and think for a moment. A lot of people have fallen for this; it’s an estimated $5 million industry. It doesn’t mean you’re stupid, and it doesn’t mean you’re crazy.

If you continue to defend, recommend, and use magnet therapy after reading this story, THAT would mean you’re stupid, crazy, and also arrogant to the point of refusing to believe you could be wrong.

We know that just isn’t you, right?

Matt Ellis is one of the co-founders of Bag Of Mad Bastards, and the outspoken co-host of the controversial podcast B!tch Sl@p. His mission is to remove the veil of superstition surrounding us, and challenge you to think for yourself. He can be reached by email: matt@bagofmadbastards.com.

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4 Comments

  1. I follow your blog for a long time and must tell you that your posts always prove to be of a high value and quality for readers.

  2. Hello.
    I have seen your Blog… It’s too informative. There are many posts which are really too Good and very useful.

  3. Really great page,
    keep it up

  4. Matt, allow me to disagree with your post, magnetic bracelets do work and people benefit from them daily. It is true that a lot of the science babble behind the reasons for why is pure lunatism but the fact remains, people are experiencing pain relief from magnets and magnetic therapy. It could be placebo it could be something else, but to write it off completely is not right. No I am not stupid and nor are all of the people who bought into magnetic bracelets, myth or not, and experience cure from them. Oh well, since you are so anti magnetic therapy and jewelry you will most likely not post this comment, it would be to support the enemy and world dummies after all 🙂 Thanks for your post and stay away from the bracelets if they rub you wrongly!


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