Magnet Therapy Nonsense

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I read an interesting article recently on Reuters in which they have a go at the multi-million dollar ‘Magnet Therapy’ BULLSHIT. (Over $1 billion in 2006, according to some sources).

The practice has increased several-fold worldwide, but particularly (and here’s the surprise) in the spiritual home of the fad – The US of A. There has never been any legitimate evidence or medical support whatsoever that there is even a hint of value to the claims that magnets are of therapeutic value. Two US scientists, professors Leonard Finegold and Bruce Flamm, writing in the British Medical Journal have added their considerable weight to the movement aimed at demythologising this and other quackery.

But this doesn’t stop people from getting rich – very rich off exploiting the weaknesses and naiveties a gullible and in some sad cases, desperate public.

And here’s the rub – magnets may be legally advertised by top celebrities, sportsmen, etc. because they use subjective techniques such as “It really makes me feel good” (Well, of course you feel good, you just got paid!) as opposed to “It’ll really make you feel good” which would be libelous. In such a ‘non-evidence restricted situation’, you can say what you like so long as you don’t make and specific medical claims.

The other reason why such products are allowed to escape scrutiny is because unlike Thalidomide or Vioxx, they’re harmless. You could package Tic tacs as an unspecific medication, should you so choose.

Also, surely if tissue can be influenced by the tiny force exerted by these little magnets, wouldn’t there be a catastrophic reaction to massive forces generated by resonance imaging (MRI).

In all fairness, I wouldn’t be getting so hot under the collar about somebody handing over a couple of dollars for a silly looking bracelet in the mistaken belief that it helps them in some way. I’m a huge believer in psychological comforts. However, there’s increasing evidence that a growing number of (particularly poor) sufferers are turning to pseudo-medical snake oil dealers instead of getting the evidence-based medicine they need.

“Patients should be advised that magnet therapy has no proved benefits,” said Finegold, “If they insist on using a magnetic device they could be advised to buy the cheapest — this will at least alleviate the pain in their wallet.”

Interesting Aside: After writing this, someone pointed out an article published in Science Daily in which they quote the British Medical Journal’s report on research conducted at The Peninsula Medical School in Exeter, UK. The research was conducted among 194 patients suffering from osteoarthritis of the hhip or knee over a 12 week trial and suggested that improvements were noted among those wearing a highly charged magnetic bracelet as opposed to those wearing a placebo.
However, (and you just knew I’d say that) they also agreed that a true test was not possible, as the true placebo conditions could not be followed, as those with magnets on their wrists knew straight away, given the magnetic properties.