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Using Magnets to Relieve Pain

There are many different products on the market which claim to reduce pain via the use of magnets. Some of my clients claim that products such as magnetic collars have helped their pet. I have been wondering if there was any evidence for their therapeutic use. Recently I have been looking into the evidence available regarding the efficacy of these products. Unfortunately such evidence seems to be in short supply at the moment. That does not necessarily mean that these products do not work; it is more likely to suggest inadequate funding for this type of research.

It is claimed that magnetic therapy has been used for thousands of years by ancient Greek, Egyptian and Chinese civilisations. It is possible to obtain a wide range of products designed for animals which claim to use magnets to improve mobility and decrease pain in arthritic animals. Some products are claimed to treat a wide range of conditions. Products available include collars and blankets for small animals and boots or rugs for horses.

Magnets are supposed to work by subjecting the cells to an external magnetic field which improves circulation, maintains the body's optimal pH and maintains electrical conductivity in the cells. All this, it is claimed, increases the body's ability to heal itself. That the magnetic field would have an effect of some kind on cells is not unlikely because so many molecules within the cell are electrically charged. Just how this effect works and why it helps healing and pain relief is something which requires further investigation. Perhaps it may work a little bit like a TENS machine which is certainly very effective at relieving pain? It is also unclear what type and strength of magnet should be used with different companies seeming to promote different types of magnet.

I have no idea why these products should work but there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that they do!
There is some published scientific evidence which suggests the effects of magnetic therapies in patients with pain from musculoskeletal problems were positive. For example a study published in the BMJ suggested that there was a decrease in osteoarthritic pain in human patients wearing magnetic bracelets compared with those who did not. (It was unclear whether this response was due to the placebo effect of wearing a bracelet or not.) (Harlow et al; 2004)

My own view on the use of magnetic collars and similar products is that they are worth a try. I would recommend them mostly for animals with osteoarthritic pain or some other musculoskeletal pain such as sprains or strains. If they do work they would certainly be safer and cheaper than steroidal or non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. If they don't work for your pet then they are unlikely to do any harm.

Reference:
Harlow, Greaves, White, Brown, Hart and Ernst: Randomised controlled trial of magnetic bracelets for relieving pain in osteoarthritis of the hip and knee. BMJ 2004;329 : 1450 - 1454

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All Rights Reserved | Content is provided for information only. All content on vetbase.co.uk is protected by copyright and therefore may not be copied without specific written permission from the author. Disclaimer: The content of this website is based upon the opinions of Samantha Coe, unless otherwise stated. Individual articles, extracts, and any links to external sites are based upon the opinions of the respective author(s), who may retain copyright. The information on this website is not intended to replace a consultation with a qualified veterinary professional and is not intended as medical advice. The purpose of this site is the sharing of knowledge and information - Samantha Coe encourages you to make informed healthcare decisions for animals in your care based upon your research and in consultation with your vet.