Appendix I: Research on Theories and Beliefs on How Magnets Might Relieve Pain

Questions & Answers About Using Magnets to Treat Pain - Part 7

Theory: Static magnets might change how cells function.
Description of Studies: (1) Mouse nerve cells were exposed to static magnetic fields of three different strengths, and the cells were stimulated with pulses of electricity. (2) Mouse nerve cells were exposed to a static magnetic field and capsaicin (a pain-producing substance).
Findings: (1) Exposure of nerve cells in culture to a static 110-G magnetic field reduced their ability to transmit electrical impulses. (2) Magnets prevented mouse nerve cells from responding to capsaicin. Citations: (1) McLean et al., 1995,34 and (2) McLean et al., 2001,32


Theory: Magnets might alter/restore the balance between cell death and growth.
Description of Study: Cultures of the U937 human lymphoma (a tumor of lymph node tissue) cell line were exposed to a static magnetic field at the same time that they were treated with agents that cause cell death.
Findings: Static magnet fields protected some cells from agents that cause cell death and allowed them to survive and grow.
Citation: Fanelli et al., 1999,35

Theory: Static magnets might increase blood flow.
Description of Study: Randomized clinical trial (RCT) of 20 healthy young men who wore static magnets or placebo devices on their forearms for 30 minutes.
Findings: Blood flow was not significantly different when comparing the results of the magnet session with the placebo session.
Citation: Martel et al., 2002,36

Theory: Weak pulsed electromagnets might affect how nerve cells respond to pain.
Description of Study: The pain threshold to a hot surface was measured for rats before and 30 and 60 minutes after exposure to weak pulsed electromagnets for 30 minutes.
Findings: An increase in pain threshold (analgesic effect) was found 30 and 60 minutes after exposure to pulsed electromagnets.
Citation: Ryczko and Persinger, 2002,37

Theory: Pulsed electromagnets might change the brain's perception of pain.
Description of Study: Rats were exposed to pulsed electromagnets (treatment group) or static magnetics (control group) 4 hours/day, for up to 28 days. The brains were removed and changes in the number of serotonin (a brain chemical that affects stress and pain) receptors were examined.
Findings: Significant increases in the number of receptors that bind serotonin were observed in the brains of the rats exposed to a pulsed electromagnet.
Citation: Johnson et al., 2003,38

Theory: Electromagnets might affect the production of white blood cells involved in fighting infection and inflammation.
Description of Study: Human and rat white blood cells were exposed to electromagnets or pulsed electromagnets.
Findings: Both the human and rat cells exposed to either type of electromagnetic therapy (ET) showed a modest increased capacity to multiply.
Citation: Johnson et al., 2001,39

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: 01/08/16
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Appendix II: General and Systemic Reviews on CAM Magnetic Therapy for Pain Published from August 1999 to August 2003
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Appendix II: General and Systemic Reviews on CAM Magnetic Therapy for Pain Published from August 1999 to August 2003

The second Appendix supporting the article "Questions and Answers About Using Magnets to Treat Pain."
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