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Magnets have long been promoted as treatment for a wide variety of disorders. Proponents claim magnets can minimize pain and anxiety, and treat cancer, heart disease, snoring, incontinence and just about everything else. While most of these claims are unproven, and most magnets on the market are unlikely to do any good at all, several studies do suggest that magnets may have something to offer for pain relief.
A 1997 study at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston showed that 76 percent of patients treated with magnets for severe joint and muscle pain due to post-polio syndrome reported less pain compared to only 19 percent of those who received placebos.
University of Virginia researchers said participants reported clinically meaningful improvements when using magnet therapy to reduce the intensity of pain from fibromyalgia (researchers also cautioned the overall results of their study were inconclusive).
A University of Tennessee study showed that 60 percent of women with pelvic pain reported improvements after three weeks of magnet therapy compared to 33 percent of those treated with placebos.
Taken as a whole, studies suggesting that magnets help with pain relief are outnumbered by those that find no benefit.
If you do try magnet therapy, keep in mind that using magnets is not without risk, particularly for those with a pacemaker or other implantable medical device such as a defibrillator, insulin pump or liver infusion pump. In addition, therapeutic magnets are often pricey, there is no evidence that magnet therapy is safe during pregnancy, and there have been anecdotal reports of dizziness, nausea and prolongation of wound healing and bleeding among those wearing magnets.