Magnet Therapy By Marilyn DeMartini,Golf for Women Magazine, May, 1998
Mag´net. n. 1. A body that attracts iron and certain other materials by virtue of a surrounding field of force produced by the motion of its atomic electrons and the alignment of its atoms. 2. Anything that attracts. [< Gk Magnes lithos, “the Magnesian stone.”]
Got that? The definition of “magnet” sounds as mysterious and complicated as the components of a golf swing. Perhaps that is why golfers are “attracted” to this form of therapy to take the pain out of their games—much like believing golf gadgets and gizmos will take strokes off their scores.
Magnetic therapy has been traced back to ancient Chinese, Indian and Egyptian physicians, and legend even notes that Queen Cleopatra wore a lodestone on her forehead to prevent old age. But recently, magnets have grown into a $500 million business and gained increased attention and use from pain sufferers—and golfers—who are ready for an option to prescription drugs and surgery. Is it because golf is such a “head” game, that players are willing to experiment with alternative methods to avoid “playing in pain,” or is it true that golfers will try anything to help their game?!
“Since all substances on earth—including all living beings—possess electrical impulses, it follows that they are influenced by magnetic force.” Says recognized wellness doctor, Julian Whitaker, M.D. and Barbara Adderley, in their new book, The Pain Relief Breakthourgh – The Power of Magnets. Magnets have been proven to effect the ions, or charges in the blood, which greatly increase the blood flow into capillaries, increasing circulation and relaxing muscle and connective tissue. While more blood brings more oxygen through the capillaries, it also flushes away more waste products like carbon dioxide and lactic acid, thus reducing the causes of pain and inflammation. “The stepping up of the metabolism not only stops pain, but also stimulates the body to heal faster,” say Drs. Ron Lawrence and Paul Rosch, two scientists who have explored the many facets of enigmatic magnets in their book, Magnet Therapy – The Pain Cure Alternative.
Permanent magnets can effectively be applied to certain acupuncture or referral points, but they are not location or distance dependent, as magnetic energy can travel through bones and muscles and reaches deep into underlying neural fabrics. That is why bracelets are a convenient and attractive therapeutic mode, since wearing magnets on both sides of the wrist, is conducive to a constant magnetic flow.
Permanent magnets are different from electromagnetic therapy which is a moving magnetic field, used to stimulate the brain and bone healing. Magnetic Resonance Imaging or MRI, is another powerful magnetic force, widely used by neurologists to test nerve structures. Both of these therapies are approved by the FDA while permanent magnets are still under study and have not been presented for FDA review—which is unlikely, due to lack of a patentable technology and the extremely high costs of the process.
As Drs. Lawrence and Rosch report, “Electromagnetism is also a two-edged sword, with potential for both healing and damage.” Some of those potentially dangerous fields are radiation and extremely low frequency fields (ELF), generated by electrical apparatus and power lines, which are currently being studied for possible harm. “These ELF’s involve alternating currents… that do not resonate with natural human frequencies … However, electromagnetic ‘damage’ is not something that will result from permanent magnet therapy,” their book states.
“All magnets are not created equal,” states Dr. Rosch, in describing the difference between refrigerator magnets that hold the shopping list and those golfers are now wearing wrapping around their backs, waists, wrists, or even sleeping on, in mattress pads. The strength of magnets is determined by their size and composition, measured by an industry standard called “gauss.” Gauss does not convey the strength that penetrates the body, for a only a fraction is transmitted through the skin. While the magnet on your refrigerator is small and very weak, powerful neodymium magnets are encased in ceramic and sewn into a flexible band, or encased in a bracelet to offer therapeutic effects. Though they have both positive and negative charges, these magnets are called mono or “unipolar,” because one charge is placed against the skin—often the negative side. Some companies manufacture magnets termed “bipolar” and incorporate a pattern of magnets, with both positive and negative poles placed against the skin.
Dr. Lawrence urges customers to only buy products that offer a 30-day guarantee, so if the remedy doesn’t work for the individual, it can be returned. A full 80% of his patients have experienced effectiveness, with only a 3% return. He considers the application paramount and suggests that users keep the magnets close to the skin, and if possible, to surround an injured area with a wrap containing several magnets. He also cautions that some soft, semi-permanent magnets can be de-magnetized, but that high-powered, neodymium magnets cannot.
Most doctors who use magnet therapy agree that magnets do not cure any disease but rather, stop pain as part of a multifaceted treatment program, that could include exercise and proper nutrition. The proof of magnets effectiveness has long been told in anecdotal endorsements from doctors and patients, like LPGA pros Muffin Spencer Devlin and Donna Andrews, but now there are several “double-blind” scientific studies (those with two compared groups—one uses a product and one uses a placebo), that support and document the benefits, though exactly why or how is not yet determined.
“I’m the sort of person who tries stuff like this before anyone else,” says Muffin Spencer Devlin. Devlin was introduced to magnetic inner soles when she played golf in Japan in the early 80’s. They helped her recover from “Turf Toe” which physical therapists were unable to help her cure. Devlin also found magnets brought relief from constant low back pain and spasms and still uses different size magnets for periodic cramps and pains. Since she uses no analgesics, Devlin credits magnets she taped on her cheeks for relieving pain and promoting quick healing from recent gum surgery. She also wears a copper and an ionized bracelet (see sidebar) to help relieve minor aches and pains and gave a combination copper/magnet bracelet to fellow golfer Kris Tschetter who likes and wears it, though she did not get results from other types of bracelets.
Donna Andrews is another LPGA player whose attraction to magnets helped her career. Initially a skeptic, she tried a magnet with a velcro strap wrapped around her back and in one week, found relief from pain that did not respond to rest or therapy and had kept her out of tournaments. She played with the magnets for a year and since, has been “pain free.” She still wears a Tectonic bracelet and has an unpaid endorsement with the company. “The bracelet is very attractive too,” she comments, “People ask me about it all the time and are surprised to hear that it’s therapeutic and has magnets in it.” Andrews also sleeps on a magnetic mattress pad and takes it with her on the road when she drives. “It helps my circulation and I have no more ice cold hands and feet—my husband really appreciates that!” she laughs, “I don’t claim to understand the technical aspects of it, I just know magnets stopped my pain.”
Dr. Ray Jacobs, a consultant for several magnet companies, states that he was a skeptic, but in 1975, when crippling arthritis threatened his own veterinarian practice, he tried a magnetic necklace, with the thoughts of giving it to his wife when it didn’t work. “I’ve been wearing it ever since,” he states and after doing his own research and experiments, has written a manual for layman on how to select and use magnets. “We don’t know enough about it, but in the next 5 years, it will be amazing what we learn,” he enthuses.
Of course, there are pros and cons. Dr. John Leighton, a board certified and sports medicine trained orthopedic surgeon, says, “Show me that there’s some scientific evidence. Nothing can show an increase in blood flow will help. But, you can’t prove it doesn’t work, so people go out and say it does. Why would they work? There is a 10-30% placebo effect with anything you use. The same people that spend hours looking for a 75 cent ball, think nothing of going out and spending $85 on a magnet. People can try anything—[magnets] are not harmful, but if the body is telling them something hurts, you don’t want to send the athlete out to play in pain. Tennis (or golfer’s) elbow is benign enough not to make it worse—they’re not going to hurt themselves. But low back pain is more dangerous—if you have a herniated disc, and a magnetic mattress is why you feel better, then it’s unreasonable to continue to play with a herniated disc.”
Dr. Rosch conversely believes that, “Magnets are still better than drugs, are not harmful and have no side effects—they don’t chew up your stomach. There is just so much baloney and inferior product out there, that it’s confusing to people. Some companies have $100 million in sales and don’t spend once cent on pain research, while other companies have one studies and proven the effectiveness. Magnet therapy is where acupuncture was 10 years ago. There’s no doubt that it works—the theory doesn’t have to be correct, just the facts. Celsus, the ancient Roman physician said 2,000 years ago, ‘Part of the cure is the wish to be cured.’ but when 75% of horse trainers use magnets and 3 out of 4 people in double blind studies find relief with magnets from painful diseases like fibro neuralgia, that’s not a placebo affect. Some medical doctors don’t believe in it because out of either arrogance or ignorance, they didn’t learn about it.”
As Drs. Rosch and Lawrence summarize in Magnet Therapy, “”We remind all skeptics of the popular saying: ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ When it comes to magnetic therapy, we propose this response: “if it works, don’t knock it.'”
There are a variety of therapeutic bracelets:
Copper, an age-old remedy, has been known to help some forms of arthritis, when copper deficiency is a problem. Sabona is recognized manufacturer, endorsed by Sevie Ballesteros, comes in copper, silver or gold plated bands as well as watch bands. Some doctors agree that copper can alleviate arthritic swelling, but not necessarily pain. A green color on the wrist shows copper being absorbed by the skin, but it washes off with soap and the bracelet can be cleaned with any jewelry polish.
Polarized bracelets invented by a chiropractor in Mallorca, Spain, are made of plated minerals with ionized terminals, and are said to regulate and balance the body’s positive and negative ions, through the principals of Chinese acupuncture. Q-Ray manufactures one worn by many PGA, LPGA and Senior Tour players, including an endorsement by Gary Player. Bracelets should be worn constantly, but cannot be worn with any other jewelry and the polarized ends should not touch.
Magnetic bracelets surround the wrist with a number of magnets inside jewelry, in contact with various acupuncture points. Do not wear next to your watch! They come in a variety of styles from manufacturers like Tectonic who has conducted extensive research through an impressive advisory board. Tectonic also offers a selection of magnets in body wraps, inner soles, seat cushions and mattress pads and has unpaid endorsements from players like Donna Andrews, Jim Colbert and Bob Murphy. Serenity 2000 also caters to the golf market with a bracelet, necklaces and has a catalog showcasing a wide range of personal and household products. Many multi-level marketing companies like Nikken, the largest, sell magnetic products through dealerships.
Copper/Magnet Combination bracelets, in flexible metals or tri-metal plated cuffs with magnetic terminals are carried by Sispro Products Inc. (SPI). A line of neoprene magnetic support wraps and a mattress pad are also offered.
Since permanent magnets are not FDA approved, manufacturers must provide a disclaimer that they are not medical products and should not replace any treatment by a doctor. In addition, use by pregnant women and those wearing a pacemaker or any electrical implants is discouraged as a safety precaution. Though Drs. Rosch and Lawrence report no adverse reactions from pregnant patients or those with pacemakers, they acknowledge the umbrella caution, add one for those taking anticoagulant drugs which thin the blood, and recommend that magnets be worn in cycles, rather than constantly. Serenity 2000 also cautions against demagnetization of other magnetized items—do not place magnets on credit cards, computers or audio/video cassettes.