The constant evolution of technology, science, and medicine has led to some amazing insights and discoveries that have allowed for exciting treatments. The constant push for better health and an improved quality of life contributes to new understandings about the human body and the elements that influence how it functions.
Research on magnetic therapy suggests that it may provide a wide range of benefits and applications. What is magnetic therapy used for? Read on to find out
What is Magnetic Therapy?
Let’s start with what is magnetic therapy? While magnetic therapy is relatively new, the concept of using magnets for health goes back over 2,000 years. Early folk healers in Asia and parts of Europe used healing magnets to treat various ailments, believing that magnets could draw out impurities and pull diseases out of the body with the magnetic force, creating magnet therapy.
Today, magnetic therapy describes a variety of potential treatments that can boost your overall health or reduce symptoms for conditions. Static magnetic field therapy describes treatment that involves direct contact with a magnet, often with a magnetic bracelet, jewelry, shoe insoles, or special mattress pads. Magnetic therapy can also be used in conjunction with acupuncture to open energy pathways or channels. Electromagnetic therapy involves magnets that have been electrically charged, which also usually involves the application of an electric pulse.
The exact mechanisms of action require further study, but the current research suggests that magnetic therapy operates on the human body’s natural biomagnetic and electric fields. Every molecule in your body generates a small amount of magnetic energy. The theory behind magnetic therapy suggests that certain health issues can disrupt the natural balance of these magnetic energies. Applying a magnet is believed to rebalance your molecular magnetic fields.
Similarly, your body is full of charged ions, like calcium and potassium, that generate a small electric current. This allows cells to send and receive signals for every basic function of the body. Applying magnetic therapy may alter the way these ions function, which may then result in physiological changes
Some manufacturers of magnetic jewelry claim that magnets can increase blood flow to areas where the magnets are worn. Increased blood flow means more oxygen and nutrients, which then means faster tissue healing. While blood does contain iron (an element that is normally attracted to magnets), that iron is bound to hemoglobin and is thus not ferromagnetic. If your blood was ferromagnetic, you would essentially explode if you were placed inside an MRI machine.
What Can Magnetic Therapy Be Used For?
Thanks to the broad mechanisms and easy application, magnetic therapy has reportedly been used for a wide range of health conditions. In fact, there are many magnetic therapy benefits.
The most commonly stated application for magnetic therapy is general pain relief related to just about any health condition, but most studies have focused on forms of arthritis (like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis). This is mostly what drove the sales of magnetic bracelets and jewelry. So, do magnetic bracelets work? There’s little scientific evidence to suggest that magnets have any effect on joint pain, muscle pain, or inflammation. At best, pain relief from magnets is a placebo effect.
Fibromyalgia is a disorder that affects the muscles and soft tissues in the body. It is characterized by immense, consistent musculoskeletal pain all over the body. Fibromyalgia is believed to affect the way that your brain and spinal cord process signals to both painful and nonpainful triggers, which results in amplified pain signals.
Along with widespread pain, fibromyalgia can cause:
- Physical fatigue
- Sleep disruptions and sleep disorders, like restless legs syndrome or sleep apnea
- Cognitive difficulties (often referred to as “fibro fog”) characterized by difficulties focusing, paying attention, and concentrating on cognitive tasks
Fibromyalgia can also come with co-existing conditions, including mood disorders, postural tachycardia syndrome, and painful bladder syndrome. Symptoms usually start following a significant event, like a physical or psychological trauma, surgery, or infection, but they can also come on gradually without any trigger or inciting incident.
There is no known cure for fibromyalgia. However, a clinical trial suggests that static magnetic field therapy may help to reduce pain symptoms associated with fibromyalgia. Patients who used a functional magnetic sleep pad showed the most significant change in scores measuring pain and tender points over a period of six months.
Fibromyalgia is often otherwise managed with a mix of medication, physical therapies, and lifestyle changes. Medication for fibromyalgia can include over-the-counter pain relievers, antidepressants, and anti-seizure drugs. Physical therapy and occupational therapy can help to reduce the effect of fibromyalgia on everyday life, while counseling can provide strategies for dealing with the stress and mental burden of the disorder.
Insomnia and Sleep Disorders
Insomnia is surprisingly common among Americans, affecting upwards of 25 million people in the United States. A consistent lack of sleep can have some severe physical, mental, and emotional effects on a person’s health and reduce a person’s general quality of life. Insomnia also poses a danger to people around you if you operate heavy machinery in your occupation.
Some studies suggest that magnetic therapy may help with insomnia. A study found that impulse magnetic field therapy had a significant effect on patients suffering from insomnia. Patients in the treatment group experienced reduced values in nearly all categories, which included daytime sleepiness, sleepiness after rising, daytime headaches, and difficulty with concentration.
Another clinical trial is looking at the potential effect of transcranial magnetic stimulation to treat insomnia. Transcranial magnetic stimulation is a process of stimulating the brain non-invasively with magnets. This treatment is usually reserved for forms of depression that are unresponsive to antidepressant medications. The investigators theorize that low frequency TMS may inhibit the hyper excitable cortical state in patients with chronic insomnia. This clinical trial is currently ongoing.
Cancer remains one of the leading causes of death in the world. In the U.S. alone, 2020 had an estimated 1.8 million new cancer diagnoses with over 600,000 estimated cancer-related deaths. Cancer is known to be caused by genetic mutations that cause cells to grow out of control, eventually resulting in the formation of tissue masses known as tumors. Left unchecked, cancerous cells may spread to other parts of the body (a process known as metastasis).
Unfortunately, research still is not sure what specifically causes these genetic mutations, though there is a broad understanding that they may come from heredity, environmental factors, and lifestyle. As such, there are currently no known cures for cancer. Traditional treatments for cancer include surgery to remove the tumor, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
Magnetic fields may play some role in treating cancer. Studies on mice suggest that applying magnetic therapy may reduce the size of tumors and support cancer cell death via apoptosis, though the exact mechanisms require further research. Other studies show that magnetic nanoparticles can be used as a means of killing cancer cells. The nanoparticles are injected into or near the tumor cells and then activated using alternating magnetic fields. The process is a form of hyperthermia therapy, which uses extremely high temperatures to remove abnormal tissue. The alternating magnetic field essentially heats up the magnetic nanoparticles, causing damage to cancer cells while leaving healthy cells relatively intact.
After discussing magnetic therapy, from pulsed electromagnetic field therapy to magnetic bracelets, it’s still unknown about the effectiveness of treating chronic pain, insomnia, and more. Magnetic therapy still remains in its early stages, and more research is necessary to understand if therapeutic magnets are effective in supporting good health. If you have cancer, consult your doctor to determine the best treatment option for your needs.
At Immunity Therapy Center, our goal is to provide objective, updated, and research-based information on all health-related topics. This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles. All information has been fact-checked and reviewed by Dr. Carlos Bautista, a Board Certified Medical Doctor at Immunity Therapy Center. All information published on the site must undergo an extensive review process to ensure accuracy. This article contains trusted sources with all references hyperlinked for the reader's visibility.