Develop a magnetic’ personality to prevent pain

Therapy often used for aches, sprains, chronic pain

While most physicians may not be telling patients with minor aches, pains, strains, and sprains to tape a static magnet to the region of pain and call in the morning, many of their patients are doing just that, especially athletic people experiencing sports-related injuries.

For these types of injuries, it is no different than taking a couple Advil or putting ice on the injury, says Milt Hammerly, MD, director of integrated medicine at Catholic Health Initiative in Denver.

"It is very benign, noninvasive, safe therapy," Hammerly says. Magnetic therapy also is good for treating chronic pain.

It is important that people know what they are treating when using magnets for the treatment can mask the symptoms of an underlying condition, such as metastatic prostate cancer to the spine. "Anyone with chronic symptoms needs to have an adequate work-up and diagnosis to know what he or she is treating," he says.

How they work

It is thought that the magnets help with minor aches and strains by enhancing blood flow because the ionic or charged particles of the blood respond to the magnetic field. The reduction of inflammation is a slightly different process, says Hammerly. It appears that part of the inflammatory process is white blood cells being attracted to a charge imbalance in the area of the injury. "By overriding that charge imbalance with the presence of the external magnetic field, it actually decreases the migration of the white cells to the area of injury and thereby decreases the whole inflammatory response," he explains.

With chronic pain, the nervous system seems to be working abnormally, and anything can trigger the nerves — even weather changes. Small nerve fibers continuously are firing and depolarizing in a vicious cycle. "With that kind of pain, an external magnetic field has been shown to block the depolarization and the pain impulse," Hammerly explains.

In practice, he finds that some people have great results from magnetic therapy and others have no response at all. "I wish we were sophisticated enough to be able to predict in advance who would respond and who wouldn’t, but we aren’t there yet," says Hammerly. It does work often enough to make it worthwhile for patients with chronic pain and sprains, strains, and aches to try. He recommends that people order magnets from a company that offers a 60- to 90-day money-back guarantee in case the therapy does not work for them.

How they’re used

Magnets often are designed into a product such as belts, wraps, or mattress pads but can be purchased separately and taped onto the area of discomfort. Magnets to be used as part of therapy are designed with strength measured in gauss. A typical strength for magnets is from 400-4,000 gauss. Weaker magnets are not very effective, and stronger magnets can cause problems, says Hammerly.

People who have pacemakers or any electrically driven medical device should not use magnetic therapy. Pregnant women should not use it on the abdomen, for some research suggests that it could cause developmental changes, says Hammerly. Also, it should not be used as a cancer treatment because it is just as likely to be stimulated as it is to be inhabited, he says.

While there are some people who specialize in magnetic therapy, he doesn’t recommend them. "They don’t seem to be giving any better advice to their patients than what they can get on their own. Some of the advice is misguided and inappropriate," says Hammerly.


For more information about magnetic therapy and its appropriate use, contact:

  • Milt Hammerly, MD, Director, Integrated Medicine, Catholic Health Initiative, Denver. Telephone: (303) 778-5818. E-mail: