"So many of my patients ask about magnet therapy to treat back and neck pain. Although I do not endorse magnet therapy, as a service to patients, the following information is provided." - Stewart G. Eidelson, MD
When referring to magnets, we are not talking about the type of magnets found on refrigerator doors - but biomagnets - those magnets manufactured for physical and mental healing. Biomagnets are named after biomagnetism, the science of magnetism.
As children in school we learned that magnetism is an energy force on earth. Each atom has a nucleus around which spins positively charged protons and negatively charged electrons that generate a magnetic field. For thousands of years ancient civilizations studied the positive and negative magnetic forces. For example, in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) it is believed that a balance of these positive and negative forces referred to as Yin and Yang represents good health.
Although not scientifically proven and controversial, theories suggest biomagnets alone do not heal but rather stimulate the body to heal naturally. Some of these scientifically unproven claims include:
Theory aside, an important aspect of biomagnet use is magnet polarity. This relates to the direction in which the magnet is placed. The North Pole corresponds to TCM Yin, or negative polarity. The South Pole corresponds to TCM Yang, or positive polarity. Below, the magnetic influences of the South and North Poles are shown by example:
North Pole Characteristics: Sedating Cooling
South Pole Characteristics: Stimulating, Heating
If the body appears to lack both positive and negative energies to heal, the therapist may apply both the North and South Poles (known as Bipolar) simultaneously. Bipolar biomagnet therapy may be used to heal fractures or treat chronic pain.
The type of ailment determines the type and power of the biomagnet to be used, the length of time the patient has had the problem, its severity, if the ailment is superficial or deep, the area of the body to be treated, and the patient's sensitivity.
Some patients are sensitive to biomagnet therapy. The therapy may temporarily make the condition worse as toxins are released. Light-headedness, headache, sleepiness, and itching are some of the side effects.
Biomagnets Not for Everyone's Use
As with any treatment, there are cautionary measures to follow. For example, biomagnets should not be used during pregnancy, on patients with a history of epilepsy, while taking blood-thinning medications, on bleeding wounds, or if internal bleeding exists.
Biomagnets should never be used on a patient with a pacemaker or who have metal implants that could be dislodged by magnet use.
In infants and children care should be taken as well as use on the eyes, brain, or over the heart at any age.
Biomagnet Power Measured
Biomagnet power is measured in terms of gauss, the line of force per unit area of the pole. The earth's surface is approximately 0.5 gauss. Many manufacturers rate their products using internal gauss and external gauss to indicate strength. Listed below are typical magnetic strength classifications:
Low gauss (g) = 300 - 700 g
Medium gauss = 1000 - 2500 g
High gauss = 3000 - 6000 g
Super gauss = 7000 - 12000 g
Surface gauss rating also refers to the external strength of the magnet. This measurement is dependent on the size, shape, polarity, and grade of the magnetic material.
Some experts in biomagnet therapy begin treatment at low gauss and gradually increase strength as necessary.
We recommend you consult with a specialist who is skilled in administering biomagnet therapy first.
Types of Biomagnets
There are about as many types of biomagnets as there are body parts! Magnetic mattresses and pads are designed to be slept on, magnetic insoles fit inside shoes, block magnets can be placed under mattresses, pillows, or seat cushions, back supports are even available with slots for magnet insertion. Others are made as body wraps with Velcro closures, jewelry, and magnetic foil.
Caring for Biomagnets
Most biomagnets are made of ferrites, which are iron oxides combined with cobalt, nickel, barium and other metals to make a ceramic-like material. The flexible types of magnets are combined with plastic, rubber or other pliable materials. The strongest biomagnets are those made from neodymium (rare earth element).
However, just because biomagnets are strong does not mean they are indestructible! When subjected to intense heat (400+ degrees F) a magnet will lose all its energy. Also, don't drop magnets.
And remember, magnets can damage CDs, computer hard drives, credit cards, and other devices with metal components.
Biomagnets claim to be relatively safe, non-invasive, 100% natural, and drug free. Some manufacturers claim their magnets work fast and even offer guarantees. Many patients have reported significant improvement in back pain and other ailments with biomagnet use. However, there remains a lack of scientific data to validate the efficacy of magnets, and accordingly, very few doctors of medicine (MDs) are know to prescribe magnets for the treatment of spinal disorders.
As with any new treatment, we recommend discussing your condition with specialists who can present the argument for the therapy, and with those who are against the therapy, to provide you with a balanced picture upon which to base your decision.
Editorial Comment: The editorial staff at SpineUniverse.com tries to be open-minded to alternative treatments but will not fully support magnet therapy until "doubled blinded" studies are initiated that scientifically support the value of magnet products for back care. It would be very easy to set up these studies and we challenge the Industry to report their findings from "controlled" studies without prejudice.