Magnet Therapy

Purported Benefits, Side Effects & More

Magnet Therapy

Purported Benefits, Side Effects & More
Magnet Therapy

Common Names

  • Biomagnetic therapy
  • Electromagnetic field therapy

For Patients & Caregivers

Tell your healthcare providers about any dietary supplements you’re taking, such as herbs, vitamins, minerals, and natural or home remedies. This will help them manage your care and keep you safe.

What is it?

Magnetic therapies have no role in the diagnosis or treatment of cancer.

The term "magnet therapy" encompasses practices as simple as wearing magnetized bracelets, to using magnetized mattresses, to therapy that involves large magnetic field-generating machinery. People have different theories for why magnets might have an effect upon the body, but they generally claim that magnets act upon the body's molecules, ions, or "energy field" to correct disruptions.

Thus far, there is no scientific support for this idea. Lab studies suggest static magnetic fields may modulate ion transport and related cell and neuronal activity, but the significance of these findings is unknown.

Patients have used magnetized products to treat pain associated with fibromyalgia, neuropathy, sciatica, and arthritis, but any benefits identified in studies are often similar to placebo. Some technologies like pulsed magnetic therapy and transcranial magnetic stimulation are being evaluated for potential in reducing pain and depression, but these are different from products that are promoted in the market.

What are the potential uses and benefits?
  • To relieve pain from arthritis, muscle strains, post-polio syndrome, or other conditions

    Studies failed to find any effect of magnets on pain. In the few trials that did, design flaws and possible placebo effects have called results into question.

Evidence is lacking to support use of magnet therapy:

  • To reverse aging
  • To treat cancer
  • To improve fatigue
  • To treat AIDS
  • To stimulate the immune system
  • To treat infections
  • To reduce inflammation
  • To treat insomnia
  • To treat multiple sclerosis
  • To improve strength, stamina
  • To reduce stress
  • To improve circulation
  • To relieve nerve pain from conditions like diabetic neuropathy
  • To prevent nausea, vomiting
  • To improve wound healing
What are the side effects?

Pain, nausea, dizziness

Case Report: One patient using a magnetic mattress developed a blistering skin condition.

Regular use of low-intensity magnets is relatively safe. The World Health Organization reports that magnetic fields up to 2 Tesla (20,000 G) appear to be safe.

What else do I need to know?

Patient Warnings:

  • Magnetic bracelets, necklaces, braces, or other devices should be removed from the body before getting an x-ray or MRI.
  • Various state consumer protection agencies and the FDA have prosecuted marketers of magnetized devices and therapies, forcing them to stop making unsupported claims of health benefits.

Do Not Take if:

  • You are pregnant.
  • You have a cardiac pacemaker.
  • You are getting an x-ray or MRI.

For Healthcare Professionals

Brand Name
Magnetherapy mattresses, Bioflex magnets, MagnaBloc
Clinical Summary

Magnet therapy is an alternative treatment available in clinics in Mexico, Germany, and elsewhere. It is promoted to diagnose and treat cancer, AIDS, psychiatric disorders, stress, multiple sclerosis, infections, and to increase energy, prolong life, and stimulate the immune system. Magnetic fields are administered by application of magnets to certain parts of the body, by magnetic field-generating machines, or with magnetic mattresses or blankets. Treatment can last minutes to weeks. Evidence supporting the use of magnetic therapies for the above conditions is limited. State consumer protection agencies and the FDA have prosecuted various marketers of magnetized devices and therapies, forcing them to halt unsubstantiated claims of health benefits.

In vitro studies show that static magnetic fields may modulate ion transport and related cell and neuronal activity (4) (7), but the physiological significance of these findings is unknown. No anticancer activity has been demonstrated. Patients also use magnetized braces and mattresses to treat pain associated with fibromyalgia, diabetic neuropathy, sciatica, and arthritis. Although small studies have reported improvements in pain associated with conditions such as diabetic neuropathy (23), fibromyalgia (2), and arthritis (19), results are often indistinguishable from placebo effects. Some preliminary findings suggest pulsed magnetic therapy may help alleviate paresthesia better than placebo in patients with multiple sclerosis (24), and reduce pain and disability in patients with back pain (25). Also, synchronized transcranial magnetic stimulation may be useful in patients with major depressive disorder (26), but these are specific technologies that are still being evaluated in clinical settings for potential safety and efficacy.

Body magnets are contraindicated in radiology and/or magnetic resonance procedures. Patients with cardiac pacemakers and pregnant women should also avoid use of magnetic devices. Magnetic therapies have no role in the diagnosis or treatment of cancer.

Purported Uses and Benefits
  • Cancer
  • Circulation
  • Fatigue
  • Immunostimulation
  • Inflammation
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Pain
Mechanism of Action

Marketers make varying unsubstantiated claims for how magnets work, such as: magnets “act upon the body’s energy field,” or correct “magnetic field deficiency syndrome,” (1) a condition said to result from decreases in the earth’s magnetic field over the past 1,000 years. It is purported that the positive (south) pole of the magnet has a “stress effect,” which interferes with metabolic functioning, produces acidity, reduces cellular oxygen supply, and encourages the replication of latent microorganisms. The negative (north) pole is said to have a “calming effect” and helps to normalize metabolic functioning, promote oxygenation, and treat neurological/psychiatric disorders. No evidence supports these claims, and no anticancer activity is seen with magnetic fields in laboratory or human studies. Most anecdotes of magnetic “healing” involve symptoms that may be psychosomatic, associated with stress, or subjective measures such as pain or depression (3).

Theoretically, static magnetic fields (SMFs) may alter ion flow, cellular potential, membrane configuration, ion pump activity, or neurotransmitter release (4). Most of the biological phenomena associated with SMFs may be caused by changes in cellular calcium (8). SMFs of 1,000-4,000 G are found to alter protein and enzyme structure and the kinetics of reactions involving free radicals (7) (9). Reduced action potential firing in cultured neurons and permeability changes in synthetic liposome vesicles are observed after application of a SMF (5). It may not be legitimate to extrapolate in vitro data in which cells are directly exposed to magnetic fields, to their effect in a complex biological system. Moreover, many in vitro studies have not been replicated. Although some authors refer to documented effects of pulsed electromagnetic fields in attempting to explain a mechanism of action for static magnets, SMFs do not generate an electric field and therefore cannot confer the claimed physiologic effects (10). It is suggested that positive reports of magnet use reflect placebo effects.

  • Patients with a cardiac pacemaker and pregnant women should avoid use of magnetic devices.
  • Body magnets are contraindicated in radiology and/or magnetic resonance procedures.
Adverse Reactions

Pain, nausea, and dizziness; symptoms ceased upon removal of the magnets (15).

Case Report
Bullous pemphigoid associated with magnetic mattress use (4).

Regular use of low-intensity magnets appears to be safe. The World Health Organization reports that the available evidence indicates the absence of adverse effects on human health with exposure to magnetic fields up to 2 Tesla (20,000 G) (2).

Herb Lab Interactions

Body magnets interfere with radiology and/or MRI procedures.

Dosage (OneMSK Only)
  1. Hong CZ, et al. Magnetic necklace: its therapeutic effectiveness on neck and shoulder pain. Arch Phys Med Rehabil 1982;63:462-6.
  2. Colbert AP, et al. Magnetic mattress pad use in patients with fibromyalgia: a randomized double-blind pilot study. J Back Musculoskel Rehabil 1999;13:19-31.
  3. Macklis RM. Magnetic healing, quackery, and the debate about the health effects of electromagnetic fields. Ann Intern Med 1993;118:376-83.
  4. Burkhart CG, Burkhart CN. Are magnets effective for pain control? JAMA 2000;284:564-5.
  5. Man D, Man B, Plosker H. The influence of permanent magnetic field therapy on wound healing in suction lipectomy patients: a double-blind study. Plast Reconstr Surg 1999;104:2261-6.
  6. Szor JK, Topp R. Use of magnet therapy to heal an abdominal wound: a case study. Ostomy Wound Manage 1998;44:24-9.
  7. Repacholi MH, Greenebaum B. Interaction of static and extremely low frequency electric and magnetic fields with living systems: health effects and research needs. Bioelectromagnetics 1999;20:133-60.
  8. Flipo D, et al. Increased apoptosis, changes in intracellular Ca2+, and functional alterations in lymphocytes and macrophages after in vitro exposure to static magnetic field. J Toxicol Environ Health 1998;54:63-76.
  9. Atef MM, et al. Effects of a static magnetic field on haemoglobin structure and function. Int J Biol Macromol 1995;17:105-11.
  10. Rosen AD. Threshold and limits of magnetic field action at the presynaptic membrane. Biochim Biophys Acta 1994;1193:62-6.
  11. Liu S, et al. Magnetic disk applied on Neiguan point for prevention and treatment of cisplatin-induced nausea and vomiting. J Tradit Chin Med 1991;11:181-3.
  12. Weintraub MI. Chronic submaximal magnetic stimulation in peripheral neuropathy: is there a beneficial therapeutic relationship? Am J Pain Management 1998;8:12-6.
  13. McLean MJ, et al. Blockade of sensory neuron action potentials by a static magnetic field in the 10 mT range. Bioelectromagnetics 1995;16:20-32.
  14. Ohkubo C, Xu S. Acute effects of static magnetic fields on cutaneous microcirculation in rabbits. In Vivo 1997;11:221-6.
  15. Vallbona C, Richards T. Evolution of magnetic therapy from alternative to traditional medicine. Phys Med Rehabil Clin N Am 1999;10:729-54.
  16. Weintraub MI. Are magnets effective for pain control? JAMA 2000;284:565.
  17. Blechman AM. Discrepancy between claimed field flux density of some commercially available magnets and actual gaussmeter measurements. Altern Ther Health Med 2001;7:92-5.
  18. Carter R, et al. The effectiveness of magnet therapy for treatment of wrist pain attributed to carpal tunnel syndrome. J Fam Pract 2002;51:38-40.
  19. Segal NA, et al. Two configurations of static magnetic fields for treating rheumatoid arthritis of the knee: a double-blind clinical trial. Arch Phys Med Rehabil 2001;82:1453-60.
  20. Collacott EA, et al. Bipolar permanent magnets for the treatment of chronic low back pain. JAMA 2000;283:1322-5.
  21. Vallbona C, Hazlewood CF, Jurida G. Response of pain to static magnetic fields in postpolio patients: a double-blind pilot study. Arch Phys Med Rehabil 1997;78:1200-3.
  22. Caselli MA, et al. Evaluation of magnetic foil and PPT Insoles in the treatment of heel pain. J Am Podiatr Med Assoc 1997;87:11-6.
  23. Weintraub, MI et. al. Static magnetic field therapy for symptomatic diabetic neuropathy: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2003 May;84(5):736-46.
  24. Afshari D, Moradian N, Khalili M, et al. Evaluation of pulsing magnetic field effects on paresthesia in multiple sclerosis patients, a randomized, double-blind, parallel-group clinical trial. Clin Neurol Neurosurg. 2016 Oct;149:171-4.
  25. Oke KI, Umebese PF. Evaluation of the efficacy of pulsed electromagnetic therapy in the treatment of back pain: a randomized controlled trial in a tertiary hospital in Nigeria.  West Indian Med J. 2013 Mar;62(3):205-9.
  26. Jin Y, Phillips B. A pilot study of the use of EEG-based synchronized Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (sTMS) for treatment of Major Depression. BMC Psychiatry. 2014 Jan 18;14:13.
  27. Arendash GW, Mori T, Dorsey M, Gonzalez R, Tajiri N, Borlongan C. Electromagnetic treatment to old Alzheimer’s mice reverses β-amyloid deposition, modifies cerebral blood flow, and provides selected cognitive benefit. PLoS One. 2012;7(4):e35751.
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