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reader comments: magnet therapy

6 Oct 2011
Update your article on magnetic healing.


Daniel Barrows

reply: The link Mr. Barrows gives goes to a 2008 press release from the University of Virginia about the results of a five-year study on rats to see if magnets could affect blood circulation. Thomas Skalak and Cassandra Morris, a former Ph.D. student in biomedical engineering, were granted $875,000 from the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine to do the study. The press release says:

In their initial study, magnets of 70 milliTesla (mT) field strength—about 10 times the strength of the common refrigerator variety—were placed near the rat’s blood vessels.  Quantitative measurements of blood vessel diameter were taken both before and after exposure to the static magnetic fields—the force created by the magnets.  Morris and Skalak found that the force had a significant effect: the vessels that had been dilated constricted, and the constricted vessels dilated, implying that the magnetic field could induce vessel relaxation in tissues with constrained blood supply, ultimately increasing blood flow. 

Will this work on humans? Who knows. Their follow-up study was done on some more rats.

In this study, the hind paws of anesthetized rats were treated with inflammatory agents in order to simulate tissue injury.  Magnetic therapy was then applied to the paws.  The research results indicate that magnets can significantly reduce swelling if applied immediately after tissue trauma. 

Will this benefit humans? Who knows.

Skalak envisions the magnets being particularly useful to high school, college, and professional sports teams, as well as school nurses and retirement communities. He has plans to continue testing the effectiveness of magnets through clinical trials and testing in elite athletes. 

A look at Skalak's University of Virginia web page makes no mention of any follow-up studies on magnet therapy. I've been unable to find any other follow-up research done elsewhere. If anyone knows of recent research that has found magnetic therapy beneficial to people with blood circulation problems, please let me know and I will pass it on.

The first mention of Skalek's work with magnets and rats that I am aware of is a 2003 press release.


27 Mar 2000 
It appears that the alleged therapeutic value of magnets is gaining more mainstream acceptance, at least in Canada. In
MacLean's magazine (March 27, 2000, Vol. 113, No. 13) on p. 60 is an advertisement for "Dr. Scholl's Magnet Therapy Insoles." The text is as follows:

"Introducing Dr. Scholl's(r) Magnet Therapy Insoles. See inside for details.

With our new Magna-Energy(tm) Insoles, it's what's inside that counts. And what's inside is magnets. Why? Well, many of you already know and swear by the therapeutic benefits of magnetic bracelets. Those who wear them say the magnets improve circulation leaving you with a general sense of well-being. So what happens when you take the same concept and apply it to a broader area? You get the same results, only better. Magna-Energy Insoles, with our exclusive bipolar magnet system, allow alternating waves of magnet therapy to penetrate your body through the soles of your feet. Add to that, Dr. Scholl's performance proven comfort technology, designed to absorb shock and enhance pain relief, and you have all the reasons you need to look into Dr. Scholl's new Magna-Energy Insoles for yourself. Available in the footcare section of your pharmacy."

Note how the advertiser carefully avoids directly claiming any benefit, using things like "...many of you already know and swear by..." and "Those who wear them say..." It is disappointing that a well-established and well-known company like Dr. Scholl's (at least, in Canada) would stoop to this. It says something about the widespread acceptance of such unfounded "technologies" that they are willing to market such a product.
Ian Ferguson 
Montreal, Canada

 magnet therapy

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