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Magnet Therapy

By Steven Novella, MD, Assistant Professor of Neurology, Yale University School of Medicine

Magnet-based therapies use static magnetic fields, pulsed electromagnetic fields, or alternating-current or direct-current fields. For pulsed electromagnetic fields, magnets are used to produce pulsing electrical currents, but no heat is produced.

Medicinal claims

Magnets, in particular, have become a popular treatment for various musculoskeletal conditions. Magnets have been marketed in clothing, jewelry, and mattresses to relieve pain.

Static magnet therapy remains scientifically unproven, especially for pain relief, which is one of the most common applications. Well-designed studies of static magnets indicate that they are not effective for chronic pain, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Using pulsed electromagnetic fields to speed healing of fractures that have stopped healing is well-established. Pulsed electromagnetic fields may also help relieve pain.

Possible side effects

It is not clear whether magnet therapy is safe for the following people:

  • Pregnant women (the effects on the fetus are unknown)

  • People who have implanted cardiac devices

  • People who use an insulin pump

  • People who take a drug by patch