Many people wear copper bracelets and magnetic wrist wraps to counteract the pain that comes with arthritis and other musculoskeletal disorders. The practice is called magnet therapy. Magnet therapy come in different forms, e.g. magnetic bracelets and other accessories you can wear on your body but can also include drinking magnetized water. Magnetic therapy is used in a wide range of ailments which include (source: Magnetic Therapy Council UK):
- Bowel Disorders
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- High Blood Pressure
- Poor Circulation
- Repetitive Strain Injury
Researchers from the University of York finally conducted the first randomised placebo-controlled study on the efficacy of these accessories in the management of pain caused by osteoarthritis.
The researchers looked at 45 people over the age of 50 or more who were diagnosed with osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis. Each study participant wore four devices in a random order over a 16-week period – two wrist straps with differing levels of magnetism, a demagnetised wrist strap (placebo) and a copper bracelet. The study found no clinical significant differences between the devices in terms of their effects on pain, stiffness and physical function.
According to study leader Stewart Richmond, a Research Fellow in the Department of Health Sciences at the University of York,
“It appears that any perceived benefit obtained from wearing a magnetic or copper bracelet can be attributed to psychological placebo effects. People tend to buy them when they are in a lot of pain, then when the pain eases off over time they attribute this to the device. However, our findings suggest that such devices have no real advantage over placebo wrist straps that are not magnetic and do not contain copper.”
Previous studies have indicated that the bracelets give some relief for arthritis patients. The results of this study contradict those previous reports. However, this design of this study is more reliable, this being the first randomised placebo-controlled trial for this therapy. However, one of the limitations of the study is the small sample size.
Magnet therapy is one of the leading alternative therapies for arthritis worldwide. It is a rapidly growing business with an estimated worldwide sales of $4 billion US.
According to Stewart
“Although their use is generally harmless, people with osteoarthritis should be especially cautious about spending large sums of money on magnet therapy. Magnets removed from disused speakers are much cheaper, but you would first have to believe that they could work.”