Q:

How do magnetic bracelets work?

A:

Magnetic bracelets are an alternative therapeutic approach adopted for the treatment of chronic pain. However, according to a study by Harlow et al., reported by the British Medical Journal, any reduction of pain experienced while wearing magnetic bracelets is not distinguishable from the placebo effect.

As reported by About.com, proponents of magnetic therapy have proposed a range of possible mechanisms by which magnetic fields could conceivably work to relieve pain. These include relaxation of the blood vessels, stimulation of circulation or an increase in endorphin levels. Scientific support for these claims is weak, and no viable mechanism for magnetic therapy of the sort offered by commercially available magnetic bracelets has been shown.

While some studies, including the 2004 study by Harlow, have reported a reduction in pain and other symptoms, the test of whether a therapy is genuinely useful lies in the comparison between the test group receiving the therapeutic intervention and the placebo control group that receives no treatment. Studies have consistently failed to demonstrate that magnets have an effect over and above the relief experienced by patients who have been randomly assigned to the control group. This lack of success relative to placebo controls renders the evidence for magnetic therapy weak and unconvincing.

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