CAMLAW: Complementary and Alternative Medicine Law Blog

Magnets Failed as Alternative Therapy

"Magnets failed to provide pain relief after surgery for patients in a new study," reported WebMD.

Magnets were the object of a clever clinical trial by my friend Pete Wolsko, MD, then a Fellow at the Harvard Medical School Osher Institute and Division for Research and Education at Complementary and Integrative Medical Therapies.

Dr. Wolkso actually had designed a sham magnet, which looked and acted like a real magnet (to the extent it stuck on the refrigerator) but didn't have the right magnetic fields. People who used the sham magnet for pain relief did report placebo effects.

My recollection is that the magnet therapy nonetheless helped in pain relief over the short to medium term, along the long-term effects weren't within the ambit of the study.

The study reported on by WebMD was presented in Chicago at the American Society of Anesthesiologists' annual meeting, and involved 165 patients with moderate to severe pain after surgical procedures.

Apparently, "The researchers randomly placed a magnetic device or a sham device containing no magnets on the patients' surgical wounds. During the next two hours, the patients rated their pain every 10 minutes on a scale of 0-10, with zero being no pain and 10 being maximum pain. They got morphine doses to bring their pain intensity down to a score of "4" or less. The results show similar pain intensity ratings and morphine requirements in both groups."

The research conclusion?

'Magnetic therapy "lacks efficacy" in controlling postsurgical pain and "should not be recommended for pain relief in this setting."'

But, WebMD carefully notes, "the study doesn't address magnet use for other types of pain," so the conclusions are limited to the type of pain studied.

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COMPLEMENTARY & ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE LAW BLOG

Michael H. Cohen, Esq.; 468 North Camden Dr. | Beverly Hills, California 90210 | 310-844-3173