Magnet Therapy and its Uses
The term magnet therapy refers to the use of static magnets placed directly on the body, generally over regions of pain. A static magnet is an ordinary permanent magnet, as opposed to an electromagnetic coil. Static magnets are either attached to the body by tape or encapsulated in specially designed products such as bracelets, rings, shoe inserts, belts, wraps, or mattress pads.
Static magnets come in various strengths. The units for measuring magnet strength are gauss and tesla. One tesla equals 10,000 gauss. A refrigerator magnet, for example, is around 50 gauss. Therapeutic magnets measure anywhere from 300-5,000 gauss.
Using magnets for healing pain is increasingly popular with the public. However, despite this popularity, there is a lack of scientific evidence to prove magnets have any therapeutic benefit. Traditional physicians remain, in general, very skeptical of magnets’ benefits. Despite this justified mainstream skepticism, the following article seeks to provide members of the public who are seeking information on magnets with balanced, factual information.
When referring to magnets, we are not talking about the type of magnets found on refrigerator doors – but magnets – those magnets manufactured for physical and mental healing. magnets are named after magnetism, the science of magnetism.
As children in school we learned that magnetism is an energy force on earth. Each atom has a nucleus around which spins positively charged protons and negatively charged electrons that generate a magnetic field. For thousands of years, ancient civilizations studied the positive and negative magnetic forces. For example, in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) it is believed that a balance of these positive and negative forces referred to as Yin and Yang represents good health.
Therapeutic magnets come in 2 different types of polarity arrangements: unipolar magnets and alternating-pole devices. Magnets that have north on one side and south on the other are known, rather confusingly, as unipolar magnets. Bipolar or alternating-pole magnets are made from a sheet of magnetic material with north and south magnets arranged in an alternating pattern, so that both north and south face the skin. This type of magnet exerts a weaker magnetic field because the alternating magnets tend to oppose each other. There are many opinions on which one is better. Magnet therapy has been applied with one polar principle just for dysfunction or injuries under 2 concepts:
South Pole Characteristics: Stimulating, Heating
- Positive: Yang
- Weak muscles
North Pole Characteristics: Sedating, Cooling
- Negative: Yin
- Low back pain
- Acute headaches
- Sharp pain
If the body appears to lack both positive and negative energies to heal, the therapist may apply both the North and South Poles (known as Bipolar) simultaneously. Bipolar magnet therapy may be used to heal fractures or treat chronic pain.
The type of ailment determines the type and power of the magnet to be used, the length of time the patient has had the problem, its severity, if the ailment is superficial or deep, the area of the body to be treated, and the patient’s sensitivity.
Some patients are sensitive to magnet therapy. The therapy may temporarily make the condition worse as toxins are released. Light-headedness, headache, sleepiness, and itching are some of the side effects.
Although not scientifically proven and controversial, theories suggest magnets alone do not heal but rather stimulate the body to heal naturally. Some of these scientifically unproven claims include:
- Restoration of cellular magnetic balance
- Migration of calcium ions is accelerated to help heal bones and nerve tissues
- Circulation is enhanced since magnets are attracted to the iron in blood and this increase in blood flow helps healing
- Magnets have a positive effect on the pH balance of cells
- Hormone production is influenced by magnet use
Magnet Power Measured
Magnet power is measured in terms of gauss, the line of force per unit area of the pole. The earth’s surface is approximately 0.5 gauss. Many manufacturers rate their products using internal gauss and external gauss to indicate strength. Listed below are typical magnetic strength classifications:
- Low gauss (g) = 300 – 700 g
- Medium gauss = 1000 – 2500 g
- High gauss = 3000 – 6000 g
- Super gauss = 7000 – 12000 g
Surface gauss rating also refers to the external strength of the magnet. This measurement is dependent on the size, shape, polarity, and grade of the magnetic material.
Some experts in magnet therapy begin treatment at low gauss and gradually increase strength as necessary.
History of Magnet Therapy
Magnet therapy has a long history in traditional folk medicine. Reliable documentation tells us that Chinese doctors believed in the therapeutic value of magnets at least 2,000 years ago, and probably earlier than that. In sixteenth century Europe, Paracelsus used magnets to treat a variety of ailments. Two centuries later, Mesmer became famous for treating various disorders with magnets.
In the middle decades of the twentieth century, scientists in various parts of the world began performing studies on the therapeutic use of magnets. From the 1940s on, magnets became increasingly popular in Japan. Yoshio Manaka, one of the influential Japanese acupuncturists of the twentieth century, used magnets in conjunction with acupuncture. Magnet therapy also became a commonly used technique of self-administered medicine in Japan. For example, a type of plaster containing a small magnet became popular for treating aches and pains, especially among the elderly. Magnetic mattress pads, bracelets, and necklaces also became popular—again, mainly among the elderly. During the 1970s, both magnets and electromagnetic machines became popular among athletes in many countries for treating sports-related injuries.
These developments led to a rapidly growing industry creating magnetic products for a variety of conditions. However, the development of this industry preceded any reliable scientific evidence that static magnets actually work for the purposes intended. In the United States, it was only in 1997 that properly designed clinical trials of magnets began to be reported. Subsequently, results of several preliminary studies (detailed in the Scientific Evidence section) suggested that both static magnets and electromagnetic therapy may indeed offer therapeutic benefits for several disorders. These findings have escalated research interest in magnet therapy.
Types of magnets
There are about as many types of magnets as there are body parts! Magnetic mattresses and pads are designed to be slept on, magnetic insoles fit inside shoes, block magnets can be placed under mattresses, pillows, or seat cushions, back supports are even available with slots for magnet insertion. Others are made as body wraps with Velcro closures, jewellery, and magnetic foil.
Caring for magnets
Most magnets are made of ferrites, which are iron oxides combined with cobalt, nickel, barium and other metals to make a ceramic-like material. The flexible types of magnets are combined with plastic, rubber or other pliable materials. The strongest magnets are those made from neodymium (rare earth element).
However, just because magnets are strong does not mean they are indestructible! When subjected to intense heat (400+ degrees F) a magnet will lose all its energy. Also, don’t drop magnets.
And remember, magnets can damage CDs, computer hard drives, credit cards, and other devices with metal components.