Once in awhile I will get a patient who sheepishly asks me the following question:
“Hey doc, what do you think of these magnets?”
They ask this as if they were embarrassed to tell me that they strap on a magnet everyday for their aches and pains. Hey, I’m a chiropractor. I’m part of the alternative medicine revolution. I have an open mind (at least I try to). What’s it to me if they secretly steal the little black object from the refrigerator door and tape them to their joints. I can hear it now “Mommy, where is my art project?—it was on the refrigerator yesterday.” What little Sally doesn’t know is that what was holding up her art project is taped to mommy’s low back.
Seriously though magnets are gaining in popularity for the treatment of pain and inflammation and there are some good studies to support this.
Once such study was conducted by Thomas Skalak, professor and chair of biomedical engineering, and Cassandra Morris, a former Ph.D. student in biomedical engineering at U.Va. in the November 2007 edition of the American Journal of Physiology.
The researchers induced inflammation in rats and then used magnets shortly afterward. The swelling and inflammation were significantly reduced by the magnets. They used magnets that were about 10 times stronger than refrigerator magnets (no need to worry Sally) which were about 10 Tesla.
The researchers concluded that magnets could be used to treat injuries much like the more popular modalities such as ice. The healing effect was primarily due to vasoconstriction of the blood vessels.
One challenge to using magnets will be the determination of the correct strength for specific tissues. Magnets could end up being the first treatment for sports injuries like sprains or strains.