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Magnets

By Steven Novella, MD

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Patient Education

Energy therapy may rely on static magnetic fields (constant fields produced by permanent magnets) or pulsed electromagnetic fields (intermittent magnetic fields produced by an electromagnet). Practitioners place magnets on the body or place injured body parts in an induced electrical field to reduce pain or enhance healing.

Evidence and Uses

Magnets, in particular, are a popular treatment for various musculoskeletal disorders, although multiple studies have shown no effectiveness, especially for pain relief, one of their most common applications.

For static magnetic therapy, systematic reviews1 found no benefit for chronic pain, and high-quality studies found no benefit for osteoarthritis and RA.

The biologic effect of pulsed electromagnetic therapy is significantly different from that of static magnetic. Preliminary evidence suggests that pulsed electromagnetic therapy may relieve pain. Using pulsed electromagnetic fields to speed healing of nonunion fractures is well-established.

  • 1 Pittler MH, Brown EM, Ernst E: Static magnets for reducing pain: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized trials. CMAJ 177(7):736–42, 2007.

Possible Contraindications

Possible contraindications for magnets include pregnancy (effects on the fetus are unknown) and use of implanted cardiac devices, an insulin pump, or a drug given by patch.

* This is the Professional Version. *