Magnet therapy (an energy therapy) utilizes 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. (See also Overview of Integrative, Complementary, and Alternative Medicine.)
Magnets, in particular, are a popular treatment for musculoskeletal disorders and neuropathic pain, although data on effectiveness are mixed.
For static magnetic therapy, a systematic review found no benefit for chronic pain, and high-quality studies found no benefit for osteoarthritis and RA (1).
The biologic effect of pulsed electromagnetic therapy is significantly different from that of static magnetic. Some evidence suggests that pulsed electromagnetic therapy may relieve pain. One meta-analysis found relief of neuropathic pain with use of high frequency repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (2). 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.
2. Jin Y, Xing G, Li G, et al: High frequency repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy for chronic neuropathic pain: a meta-analysis. Pain Physician18(6):E1029-46, 2015.