Because some tissues in the body give off their own electromagnetic fields, some have suggested that illness or disease may be the result of disruption in those fields. As far back as the 16th century, an early physician named Paracelsus theorized that magnets might be beneficial to human health. Modern Western magnet therapy is thought to stem from research done by a man named Albert Roy Davis, who observed the effects of magnetic fields on the body and claimed that these fields could be manipulated to treat or cure a variety of conditions, including cancer.
Thin metal magnets are attached to the body as bracelets and necklaces or applied by adhesive patches. Magnets may also be attached to belts or bands worn around the body at various places. Other options include magnetic blankets, slumber pads, and innersoles. Based on the practitioner and the condition being treated, they may be worn for a few minutes or a few weeks.
Uses of Magnetic Therapy
Supposedly, the static fields that surround magnets can realign the fields present in the human body, curing disease and restoring proper function. Magnets are also said to increase blood flow to the areas upon which they are placed, relieving pain and boosting the immune system. Some proponents emphasize the healing effects of negative fields, generated from the negative pole of the magnet, claiming they can lower the acidity of the body and kill cancer cells.
The few scientific studies that have attested to the healing benefits of magnets have been very small and often methodologically flawed. No evidence has been found that magnets increase blood flow, and though other trials have had mixed results, they are often confounded by the fact that it is difficult to create a “placebo” for such trials – subjects can easily tell if what they are touching or wearing is actually magnetic. Only one published study has looked specifically at cancer patients and found that magnets placed on acupressure points of breast cancer survivors did not decrease hot flashes.
While magnets are not generally considered dangerous, the FDA has prosecuted some vendors for selling magnets using unverified claims as to their health benefits. Additionally, individuals with pacemakers, defibrillators, or infusion pumps may suffer serious consequences if magnets interfere with the functioning of these devices.