Magnets can be used in many ways to improve health, so here’s what you need to know:
1. Magnetic therapy is an alternative treatment which uses static magnets to treat conditions including arthritis, menstrual pain, menopause symptoms, migraines and sports injuries.
2. Magnetic therapy can be administered through products including magnetic bracelets and other jewellery, magnetic plasters or patches, shoe insoles, mattresses, magnetic blankets, and magnetic creams and supplements. The magnets are simply placed on or near the health problem area.
3. It’s not clear how magnets might help improve health – one theory is that the body forms an electromagnetic field that responds to the healing power of magnets. This idea is linked to the iron in blood, plus electrical impulses from all the body’s atoms, creating an electrical magnetic field.
4. Another theory is that magnets improve blood flow to body tissues, drawing fresh oxygenated blood to the area where the magnet is placed.
5. Because magnets are alkaline, they may counteract any acidity in the body caused by disease.
6. Magnets can be used to help back, shoulder, neck, knee and other joint problems, plus around the lower abdominal area to tackle menopausal symptoms or period pain.
7. In one uncontrolled trial of 504 menopausal women, consultant surgeon Dr Tena Walters found a small magnetic device placed in the knickers improved menopausal symptoms for more than 50% of women in the first month, with 75% seeing an improvement in three months.
8. Researchers at Exeter University analysed nine placebo-controlled randomised trials, and the results concluded: “The evidence does not support the use of static magnets for pain relief, and therefore magnets cannot be recommended as an effective treatment. For osteoarthritis, the evidence is insufficient to exclude a clinically important benefit, which creates an opportunity for further investigation.”
9. Arthritis Research UK says while it’s been suggested magnets can be helpful for pain relief, including low back and knee pain, the evidence is too patchy to make clear recommendations on the kind of magnet therapy that might help. But it says the therapy is very safe, so it may be worth experimenting, although patients “have to weigh this up with the cost of the products”.
10. Another magnetic treatment is transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), which can be used to treat depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), tinnitus, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), anorexia, chronic neuropathic pain, cocaine dependence and fibromyalgia.
11. TMS treatment involves a magnetic head which converts electricity into a magnetic field being placed against the scalp, explains consultant psychiatrist Dr Leigh Neal, who runs the Smart TMS clinic in London. The magnetic field sets up electrical circuits in the brain, with the region targeted depending on the condition being treated. The electrical stimulation causes more connectivity between nerves in the brain, an increase in the amount of neural activity, and an increase in the amount of neurotransmitters like serotonin.
12. Studies suggest up to 70% of depressed patients benefit from TMS if other treatments have failed, says Dr Neal.