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MagazineFebruary 2003 (Vol. 13 Issue 11)Magnetotherapy

Q What do you think of magnetotherapy which, again, seems to be effective and is apprently being used in NHS hospitals? - PD, Bristol

Q What do you think of magnetotherapy which, again, seems to be effective and is apprently being used in NHS hospitals? - PD, Bristol

A Doctors are rediscovering the benefits of magnet therapy to cure illness, injury and alleviate pain. It is already well established in countries such as India, Japan, China, Austria and Germany, where many people sleep on magnetic beds and wear small magnets for greater energy and to prevent illness.

Remember, though, that magnets are only an aid to stimulating the body to heal itself. To maintain a healthy balance, you need a good night's sleep, exercise and adequate nutrition.

For a magnet to be healing, the north, or negative, pole of the magnet must face the skin. Some observers also believe that the healing effect is cumulative. Small magnets worn for a short period of time are unlikely to be genuinely effective. Avoid any magnets which do not have comprehensive labelling or those whose manufacturers are unable to answer basic questions about their product.

Magnets can help reduce inflammation and improve your circulation. Injured tissue emits a positive charge, but placing a magnet's negative pole over the area appears to restore the natural balance by improving circulation, enabling blood vessels to dilate and bringing a larger amount of blood flow to the area. This helps to bring natural healing agents to the area while removing the toxic byproducts of inflammation that contribute to pain and more inflammation. By reducing both of the latter, tissue healing is stimulated (Lancet, 1984; i: 695-8).

Magnets are effective for reducing and relieving pain. Therapists report successful treatment with magnets for arthritis, rheumatism, fibromyalgia, headaches, muscle sprains and strains, joint pain, tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome (repetitive strain injury) and torn ligaments.

Magnets appear to raise a nerve's depolarisation potential so that the signal is blocked, preventing cell depolarisation and, hence, signal transmission. In addition, the magnetic field slows the ability of the nerve to transmit pain (Malcolm MJ et al., Second World Congress for Electricity and Magnetism in Biology and Medicine, 8-13 June 1977, Bologna, Italy).

Magnets can also help to reduce stress. Applying a magnet to the head calms as well as induces a hypnotic soporific effect on the brain by stimulating the hormone melatonin, which has been shown to produce a sedating effect in insomniacs. As a result, there are magnetic pillows and pads that have been designed to induce a sound and restful sleep (Guilleminault C et al., Bioelectromagnetics Society, Proceedings of the 15th Annual Meeting, 13-17 June 1993, Los Angeles, CA, p 84).

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