BIOMAGNETIC THERAPY

Sarah Foy Moreland - November 9, 1999

INTRODUCTION

Biomagnetic therapy is an alternative form of healing that has been in existence for over 100,000 years (1).  The “AncientGreeks discovered the very first natural magnet in the form of the lodestone, and Hippocrates, the father of medicine, noted it’s healing powers” (2).

Unlike the United States, Japan, China, India, Austria, and Germany all are advanced in the field of magnetic therapy. (2).  The United States does, though,  use magnets in complex machines to help better understand the body and brain, such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), which uses magnetic fields to formulate 3-D images of the brain, and electroncephalogreaphs (EEG), which look at the electrical activity of the brain.  But, as for biomagnetic therapy being used as a form of healing, the medical field is not yet completely convinced of its success.  As time goes by though, “More and more American studies, however, are confirming the value of magnetic therapy” (2).
 

THE CLAIMED PURPOSE OF BIOMAGNETIC HEALING

The claimed purpose of biomagnetic healing is to relieve pain and discomforts in the body.  Gary Null, the author of Biomagnetic Therapy, (2) says that, in addition to relieving pain and discomfort, magnets can reduce inflammation and stress, improve circulation, help the body ward off invaders such as viruses, bacteria, and fungi, correct central nervous system disorders, enhance energy supply, quicken healing, increase athletic endurance and performance, and positively influence conditions such as aging, amputees with phantom pain, appendicitis, asthma and bronchitis, breast fissures, burns, cancer, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Cervicitis, depression, Dermatitis, ear pain, Endometriosis, Fibromyalgia, foot and leg problems, head injuries, heart disease, muscle spasms, strains, sprains, and joint pain.
 

THE CLAIMS MADE ABOUT HOW BIOMAGNETS WORK

They claim that how biomagnets work is based upon the body’s make up of cells and how they interact.  The explanation: All cells that are alive are electrical; that is the outside of a cell has a negative charge and the inside, a positive charge.  This combination of opposite charges allows the cell to function normally.  When a part of the body becomes damaged, such as the body’s tissue, the damaged area responds with inflammation, which is caused by a lack of blood flow.  This lack of blood flow blocks the body’s natural ability to provide oxygen and nutrients to the injured cells.  Thus, the polarity of the cells gets out of whack.  The role biomagnets play in aiding damaged tissue is based upon the belief that magnets can realign the cell’s polarity, which helps the cell get back to functioning normally.  They claim that an increase in the diameter of the body’s blood vessels is also an affect of using a biomagnet on damaged tissue.  This enlargement allows more blood, carrying rich nutrients and oxygen, to flow to the injured area and leave with tissue’s toxins. (1)

They also say that the magnet’s energy has been described as a catalyst, which speeds up biological processes and enables the body to heal itself and ease pain.  This catalyst stimulates blood circulation, allowing more oxygen to be distributed all over the body.  (3)
 
 

THE CLAIMS MADE ABOUT THE EFFECTIVENESS OF BIOMAGNETIC THERAPY AND ITS EVIDENCE

No one has yet to claim that biomagnetic therapy should be used at all times for all medical problems.  Many people see the therapy as a valid form of alternative treatment.  A company called Magnetic Ideas, Inc., says that magnetic therapy is a non-invasive form of treatment, 100% natural, has the highest success rate, is used by famous stars and athletes, is convenient and comfortable, and has 100% satisfaction. (4)
 

Dr. Kyoichi Nakagawa, the director of Isuza Hospital in Tokyo, Japan, believes that biomagnets can be used for long hours continuously, but that the hours of usage can be adjusted according to the symptoms.  He also states that there are no serious side effects. (5) The only warnings found, as of yet, are the following: pregnant women should not use magnets because the fetus should not be exposed to extra magnetic fields, people with pacemakers should avoid magnets on their trunk due to the fact that magnets could erase their pacemaker’s “memory,” people with bleeding wound should not use magnets anywhere, for magnets lesson the “stickiness” of the platelets in the body, which help to makes scabs to stop bleeding, and people who have infections or cancer should not use biopolar magnets, which are magnets that have both a south and north pole, due to the much controversial belief that the south pole may cause accelerated growth of cancer cells, bacteria, viruses, and fungi. (2)


Magnetic Ideas, Inc. claims are backed up by series of testimonials on their web page (4) and by the statement,

“It’s ludicrous to take pain medications
with their specific, even life-threatening
dangers, without first giving magnets a
try.  Simply placing a magnet over an area
of acute pain or chronic pain, does wonders
to relieve pain, without any risk at all.”
Dr. Julian Whitaker, Health and Healing, May 1998

Other companies selling magnetic products are also presenting information that is based upon “scientific” studies.  But, in half the cases, the companies do not state what the studies were, how they were conducted, what the findings were, and who conducted them.  Doctors make the remaining claims of usage, side effects, and warnings.  For the most part, their claims are backed up with detailed scientific evidence such as research studies and test cases.  Their findings are posted on their web pages. (2) (5)

WHO IS PRESENTING THE CLAIMED INFORMATION ON BIOMAGNETIC THERAPY AND WHY ARE THEY PRESENTING IT

A multitude of biomagnetic venders are presenting the information on biomagnetic therapy.  Bottom line, they want to sell their products and sometimes the truth suffers from this drive to sell.  But in addition to these advertisers, there are a large number of doctors around the world who are interested in studying biomagnetic healing.  They are coming from a position of medical knowledge and experience and can present an objective view on the topic.  But, beware of doctors who are connected to a vender, for the doctor can change results based on what the expected outcome of the vender is.  


SCIENCE AND BIOMAGNETIC THERAPY  

SCIENTIFIC EXPLANTIONS OF HOW BIOMAGNETS WORK

The claims made above do not follow standard physiology.  One claim was that a cell’s interior was positive and the outside, negative.  Leonard R. Johnson, author of Essential Medical Physiology (15), first of all, states that a cell’s interior has a negative charge with respect to the outside of the cell.  This enables the cell to diffuse substances in and out of the cell efficiently.  The above claims about the inflammatory response are also incorrect.  The word “inflammation” actually means, “to set on fire”.  The body’s response to tissue damage is not a constriction of blood vessels that causes a lack of blood flow to the damaged tissue; the body actually increases the blood flow to the injured area, causing the tissue to feel “warm” and to swell.  After researching numerous physiology textbooks, zero information was found about cell “polarity,” therefore the idea of magnets being able to “realign the cell’s polarity” is not possible.  There also was no scientific evidence to back up the claim of magnets acting like a catalyst on the body.


SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE SUPPORTING BIOMAGNETIC THERAPY

Most research on biomagnetic therapy has been done on magnetic effects on the brain and neurological disorders.  It has been recognized that electricity and magnetism are independent but yet are still connected, passing a current through a coil of wire causes a magnetic field that is perpendicular to the current flow in the coil. (6) The type of magnetic therapy being used in the scientific arena most often is transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).  The Archives of General Psychology, in an article titled “Transcranial Magnetic Stimulations: Applications in Neuropsychiatry” by Mark S. George MD, describes the process as placing an electromagnetic coil on the scalp, while a high-intensity current is rapidly turned on and off.  It produces a magnetic field that lasts for an extremely short amount of time (100 to 200 microseconds).  The strength of the magnetic field is 40,000 times greater than the earth’s magnetic field.  This causes a sufficient current in the brain to produce neuronal depolarization.  The treatment is not a pleasant one and the higher the frequencies the greater the pain.  The pain is felt in the facial and scalp muscles that result in muscle tension headaches.  The headaches can be alleviated with aspirin.  These are the only know adverse effects of this treatment.

A study has show that TMS has beneficial effects on people with severe depression by applying slow repetitive TMS to the right prefrontal area of the brain.  The objective of the experiment was “to asses the efficacy of slow repetitive TMS (rTMS- random transcranial magnetic stimulation) in patients with major depression.  70 patients with major depression participated in the experiment and were randomly assigned to receive rTMS or sham rTMS (placebo rTMS) in a double blind study.  The participants were given 10 daily treatments during a two-week period.  The patients’ mental states were assessed before, during, and after the treatment.  The findings were that the patients who received rTMS had significantly greater improvement in their “depression score” than those who received the sham treatment.  The conclusion is that the short-term efficacy of slow rTMS improves the mental states of those who are diagnosed as having recurrent major depression. (7)

Another study supporting biomagnetic therapy, specifically TMS, is focused on the effects of TMS on the treatment of mood improvement.  The title of the experiment is “Mood Improvement Following Daily Left Prefrontal Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation in Patients With Depression: A Placebo-Controlled Crossover Trial”.  The objective of this experiment was to confirm that the daily use of rTMS might have antidepressant effects.  12 depressed adults participated, and over a four-week period, they received 2 weeks of active treatment and 2 weeks of sham treatment.  The results, based on the Hamilton depression scale, were that those individuals who had the rTMS had improved moods than those who had the sham treatment.   The study suggest that daily rTMS has positive effects on depressed individuals; the treatment acts as an antidepressant. (8)

The effects of rTMS on Epilepsy also support the theory of magnetic therapy.  An experiment called the “Low-Frequency Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Improves Intractable Epilepsy” was published in The Lancet in 1999. (9)
 The objective of the experiment was to find out if rTMS would give benefits to patients with epilepsy on the basis of animal experiments that have shown that low-frequency repetitive electrical stimulation blocked the development of seizures in rats.  9 patients participated in the study, all of whom had medically refractory focal epilepsies with very frequent partial and secondary generalized seizures.  On average, each person was having 7 seizures per week prior to the treatment.  The treatment, rTMS, was administered on 5 consecutive days at 2 trains of 500 pulses placed over the vertex.  For 4 weeks prior to and 4 weeks after the treatment, the participants were required to record every seizure or seizure-like event.  The results:  8 patients found improvement in the number of or severity (or both) of seizures per week after the having had the treatment, 2 patients had partial seizures directly after the rTMS, and the number of seizures per week did not increase in any of the participants.  The conclusion was that low-frequency rTMS may temporarily improve intractable epilepsy but that in order to be conclusive of the claim,  more studies should be done.

Other studies dealing with such issues as ulcers of the limbs, bone healing, and chronic wounds have been conducted that support biomagnetic therapy.  The following reports are from abstracts only.

A study on the effects of various magnetic currents on patients with trophic ulcers of the lower limbs was conducted in 1998 by Alekseenko AV et al. (10).  74 patients participated and after 10-12 days of the treatment, (magnetic therapy in form of varying magnetic currents: continuous, alternating, and “running” impulse), the surface of the wounds had “cleaned form necrotic tissues, surrounding inflammatory changes eliminated, epithelization of the wounds began.”  The conclusion is that a magnetic current, when applied to trophic ulcers of the lower limbs, begins the healing process of the damaged area.

A study of the effects of static magnetic and pulsed electromagnetic fields on bone healing was conducted in 1997 by Darendeliler MA et all.  (11) The purpose of the experiment was to assess “the healing pattern of an experimentally induced osteotomy in Hartley guinea pigs in the presence of static magnetic and pulsed electromagnetic fields.”  The experiment used 30 pigs that were divided into 3 groups- control, static magnetic, and pulsed electromagnetic.  After undergoing an osteotomy, the pigs were places in their respective treatments or lack there of for 9 days.  The results showed that both static and pulsed electromagnetic fields seemed to speed up the rate of bone repair in comparison with the control group, for the control group only had connective tissue and the other groups had filled in the osteotomy area with new bone.  This study, because it was done on animals, does not automatically mean that it applies to human bone, but it does give reason to perform further experiments in this field.

In 1998, Toledo Hospital in Ohio conducted a case study about the use of magnetic therapy on a chronic abdominal wound.  The case study involves a 51-year-old paraplegic woman who had had an abdominal wound for one year.  After exhausting traditional approaches to cure the wound, she allowed a magnet to be placed over her wound dressing.  The results: after 1 month, the wound was completely healed.  (12)  This study also warrants for more studies to be conducted on the use of magnets.

SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE DISPROVING BIOMAGENTIC THERAPY

In areas concerning muscle soreness and resistant major depression, evidence has shown so far that magnetic therapy has no effect.

In Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, an article was printed in 1999 about an experiment involving muscle soreness and magnetic therapy.  The title of the experiment was “The Effects of Repeated Magnetic Treatment on Prolonged Recovery from Exercise Induced Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.  The objective was to evaluate prolonged magnetic treatment on delayed onset muscle soreness.  The double blind study involved 13 participants; they each ran for 10 minutes on a treadmill going downhill at 85% HR and –16% grade to induce muscle soreness.  They then randomly received a magnet or placebo magnet and placed it 5 cm from the superior patellar border for 2 one-hour sessions, with a measurement of the muscle in between the 2 sessions.  The treatments continued at every 24,48, and 72 hours after the exercise.  After 72 hours, the lower leg and thigh circumference, pain scale, and knee extension were measured.  The results showed that statistically, the application of magnets made no difference in muscle recovery time. (13)

The American Journal of Psychiatry published an article about an experiment in 1999 about TMS and its effects on resistant major depression.  Resistant is the key word; to be resistant and have major depression means that the individual is unresponsive to medication.  The purpose of the experiment was to evaluate the efficacy and safety of left prefrontal rTMS on resistant major depression.  The participants consisted of 18 individuals who were resistant to medication for their depression.  They were each randomly assigned to 1 of two groups, 2 weeks of sham rTMS or 2 weeks of real rTMS, and then permitted up to 4 weeks of real rTMS.  The results: the groups that receives sham and real rTMS had improved moods over the initial 2 week period, but there was no significant difference between the 2 groups.  The conclusion was rTMS is ineffective in significantly improving the moods of resistant major depressed individuals. (14)

 
CONCLUSION

After researching this topic thoroughly, it is clear that biomagnetic therapy is on the rise; marketers and doctors alike are becoming extremely interested in the topic.  This form of alternative medicine/therapy is fortunately a scientifically researched topic, therefore there are studies that have shown when magnets works and when they don’t.  This therapy should be treated like most any other form of alternative medicine, it is not a replacement for standard medical treatment, but it is an option, an alternative, when making a decision about when which road to take in one’s health highway.

A last thought: if you are injured in an automobile accident and your body is mangled, you will choose the standard medical route- go to the emergency room.  But, now it is two years later and you have chronic back pain from the accident, wouldn’t you try a scientifically researched alternative form of medicine just at the chance that it could free you from your two-year chronic back pain?  Magnetic therapy should be given a chance at helping certain biological and psychological problems; scientific research has proven it is worth a try.

References:
1) http://www.horseboots.com/Biomag.html
2) http://www.garynull.com/Documents/magnets.htm
3) http://Therapy-Magnets.com/magnetic-therapy.html
4) http://www.magneticideas.com
5) http://www.biomagnetic.com/journals/nakagawa.htm
6) George, Mark S. MD, Lisanby, Sarah H. MD, & Harold A. PhD.  (1999).  Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation: Applications in Neuropsychiatry.  Archives of General Psychiatry, 56(4), 300-311.
7) Klein, Ehud MD, Kreinin, Isabella MD, Chistyakov, Andrei PhD, Koren, Danny PhD, Mecz, Lilly MD, Marmur, Sarah MD, Ben-Shachar, Dorit PhD, Feinsod, Moshe MD.  (1999).  Therapeutic Efficacy of Right Prefrontal Slow Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation in Major Depression: A Double-blind Controlled Study.  Archives of General Psychiatry, 56(4), 315-320.
8) George, Mark S. MD, Wassermann, Eric M. MD, Kimbrell, Tim A. MD, Little, John T. MD, Williams, Wendol E. MD, Danielson, Aimee L. BA, Greenberg, Benjamin D. MD, PhD, Hallett, Mark MD, Post, Robert M. MD.  (1997).  Mood Improvement Following Daily Left Prefrontal Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation in Patients with Depression:  A Placebo-Controlled Crossover Trial.  American Journal of Psychiatry, 154(12), 1752-1756.
9) Tergau, Frithjof, Naumann, Ute, Paulus, Walter, Steinhoff, Bernhard J.  (1999).  Low-frequency Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Improves Intractable Epilepsy.  The Lancet, 353(9171), 2209.
10) Alekseenko AV, Gusak VV, Tarabanchuk VV, Iftodii AG, Sherban NG, Stoliar VF.  (1998).  Magnitoterapiia v lechenii bol’nykh n troficheskimi iazvami nizhnikh konechnostei (Magentic therapy in treatment of patients with leg ulcers).  Khirurgiia, 7, 14-6.
11) Darendeliler MA, Darendeliler A., Sinclair PM.  (1997). Effects of Static Magnetic and Pulsed Electromagnetic Fields on Bone Healing.  International Journal of Adult Orthodontics & Orthognathic Surgery, 12(1), 43-53.
12) Szor JK, Topp R. (1998). Use of Magnet Therapy to Heal an Abdominal Wound: A Case Study.  Ostomy Wound Management, 44(5), 24-9.
13) Steizinger, C., Yerys, S., Scowcroft, N., Wygand, J., Otto, R. M. FACSM.  (1999).  The Effects of Repeated Magnet Treatment on Prolonged Recovery from Exercise Induced Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.  Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 31(5), S208.
14) Loo, Colleen FRANZCP, Mitchell, Philip MD, FRANZCP, FRCPsych, Sachdev, Perminder PhD, MD, FRANZCP, McDarmont, Benjamin BSc(Psych), Parker, Gordon PhD, MD, DSc, FRANZCP, Gandevia, Simon PhD, DSc, FRACP.  (1999).  Double-Blind Controlled Investigation of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for the Treatment of Resistant Major Depression.  The American Journal of Psychiatry, 156(6), 946-948.
15) Johnson, Leonard R. Essential Medical Physiology. New York: Raven Press, 1992.
16) http://biomagnetech.com/pg3c.html
 

 

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