Magnets and Pain: Terms Defined

Questions & Answers About Using Magnets to Treat Pain - Part 5

pile of books with one book open on white background Alloy: A metallic substance consisting of either a mixture of two or more metals, or a metal that has been mixed with a nonmetal.

Anecdotal evidence: Evidence made up of one or more anecdotes. In science, an anecdote is a story about a person's experience, told by that person.

Chiropractic: An alternative medical system that focuses on the relationship between bodily structure (primarily that of the spine) and function, and how that relationship affects the preservation and restoration of health. Chiropractors use a type of hands-on therapy called manipulation (or adjustment) as an integral treatment tool.

Clinical trial: A research study in which a treatment or therapy is tested in people to see whether it is safe and effective. Clinical trials are a key part of the process in finding out which treatments work, which do not, and why. Clinical trial results also contribute new knowledge about diseases and medical conditions.

Diabetic peripheral neuropathy: A nerve disorder caused by diabetes. This disorder leads to a partial or complete loss of feeling in the feet and, in some cases, the hands, and pain and weakness in the feet.

Efficacy: In scientific research, a treatment's efficacy is its power to obtain a desired effect, such as reducing pain.

ET: Electromagnetic therapy.

Fibromyalgia: A chronic disorder involving musculoskeletal pain, multiple tender points on the body, and fatigue.

General review: An analysis in which information from various studies is summarized and evaluated. Conclusions are then made based on this evidence.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): A test that uses powerful magnets and radio waves to create detailed pictures of structures and organs inside the body.

Meta-analysis: A type of research review that uses statistical techniques to analyze results from a collection of individual studies.

Myofascial pain syndrome: A chronic musculoskeletal pain disorder. Pain may occur when "trigger points," or especially tender areas on the body, are touched, or in other points in the body.

Peer reviewed: Reviewed before publication by a group of experts in the same field.

Placebo: A placebo is designed to resemble as much as possible the treatment being studied in a clinical trial, except that the placebo is inactive. An example of a placebo is a pill containing sugar instead of the drug or other substance being studied. By giving one group of participants a placebo and the other group the active treatment, the researchers can compare how the two groups respond and get a truer picture of the active treatment's effects. In recent years, the definition of placebo has been expanded to include other things that could have an effect on the results of health care, such as how a patient and a health care provider interact and what the patient expects to happen from the care.

Plastic change: The ability of the brain's connections to change, which affects many functions such as learning and recovery from damage.

Prospective study: A type of research study in which participants are followed over time for the effect(s) of a health care treatment.

Pulsed ET: Pulsed electromagnetic therapy, in which the magnetic field created by an electric current is turned on and off very rapidly.

Randomized clinical trial (RCT): In a randomized clinical trial, each participant is assigned by chance (through a computer or a table of random numbers) to one of two groups. The investigational group receives the therapy, also called the active treatment. The control group receives either the standard treatment, if there is one, for their disease or condition, or a placebo.

Rare-earth element: One of a group of relatively scarce, metallic elements or minerals. Examples include lanthanum, neodymium, and ytterbium.

Rheumatologist: A physician (M.D. or D.O.) who specializes in inflammatory disorders of the joints, muscles, and fibrous tissues.

rMS: Repetitive magnetic stimulation. In rMS, an insulated coil is placed against a part of the body other than the head, and an electrical current generates a magnetic field into that area.

rTMS: Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation. This type of transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS (see definition below), is believed by some to produce longer lasting effects.

Sham: A sham device or procedure is one type of placebo (defined above). When the treatment under study is a procedure or device (not a drug or other substance), a sham procedure or device may be designed that resembles the active treatment but does not have any active treatment qualities.

Systematic review: A type of research review in which data from a set of studies on a particular question or topic are collected, analyzed, and critically reviewed.

TMS: Transcranial magnetic stimulation. In this type of electromagnetic therapy, an insulated coil is placed against the head, and an electrical current generates a magnetic field into the brain.

NCCAM has provided this material for your information. It is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your primary health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with your health care provider. The mention of any product, service, or therapy in this information is not an endorsement by NCCAM.

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, Maryland 20892 USA

NCCAM Publication No. D208
May 2004

Updated on: 01/05/16
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Questions and Answers About Using Magnets to Treat Pain
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Questions and Answers About Using Magnets to Treat Pain

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