Magnets for Pain Relief
On this page:
- Key Points
- About Magnets
- Safety and Side Effects
- What the Science Says About Magnets for Pain
- If You Are Considering Using Magnets
- Key References
- For More Information
Magnets have not been proven to work for any health-related purpose, yet static, or permanent, magnets are widely marketed for pain control. This fact sheet provides basic information about magnets for pain, summarizes scientific research, and suggests sources for additional information.
- Scientific evidence does not support the use of magnets for pain relief.
- Do not use magnets as a replacement for conventional medical treatment or as a reason to postpone seeing your health care provider about any health problem.
- Magnets may not be safe for some people, such as those who use pacemakers or insulin pumps, as magnets may interfere with the devices. Otherwise, magnets are generally considered safe when applied to the skin.
- Tell all your health care providers about any complementary health approaches you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.
A magnet produces a measurable force called a magnetic field. Static magnets have magnetic fields that do not change (unlike electromagnets, which generate magnetic fields only when electrical current flows through them). Magnets are usually made from metals (such as iron) or alloys (mixtures of metals, or of a metal and a nonmetal).
Magnets come in different strengths, often measured in units called gauss (G) or, alternatively, units called tesla (T; 1 T = 10,000 G). Magnets marketed for pain relief usually claim strengths of 300 to 5,000 G—many times stronger than the Earth’s magnetic field (about 0.5 G) but much weaker than the magnets used for MRI machines (approximately 15,000 G or higher).
Magnets are often marketed for many different types of pain, including foot pain and back pain from conditions such as arthritis and fibromyalgia. Various products with magnets in them include shoe insoles, bracelets and other jewelry, mattress pads, and bandages.
Safety and Side Effects
- Magnets may not be safe for some people, such as those who use a pacemaker or an insulin pump; magnets may interfere with the functioning of the medical device. Otherwise, magnets are generally considered safe when applied to the skin.
- Reports of side effects or complications have been rare.
What the Science Says About Magnets for Pain
Scientific evidence does not support the use of magnets for pain relief.
Preliminary studies looking at different types of pain—such as knee, hip, wrist, foot, back, and pelvic pain—have had mixed results. Some of these studies, including a 2007 clinical trial sponsored by the National Institutes of Health that looked at back pain in a small group of people, have suggested a benefit from using magnets. However, many studies have not been of high quality; they included a small number of participants, were too short, and/or were inadequately controlled. The majority of rigorous trials have found no effect on pain.
If You Are Considering Using Magnets
- Do not use magnets or any unproven health practice to replace conventional health care or to postpone seeing a health care provider about pain or any other medical problem.
- Tell all your health care providers about any complementary health approaches you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care. For tips about talking with your health care providers about complementary health approaches, see the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine’s (NCCAM) Time to Talk campaign.
- Colbert AP, Markov MS, Souder JS. Static magnetic field therapy: dosimetry considerations. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2008;14(5):577–582.
- Eccles NK. A critical review of randomized controlled trials of static magnets for pain relief. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2005;11(3):495–509.
- Khoromi S, Blackman MR, Kingman A, et al. Low intensity permanent magnets in the treatment of chronic lumbar radicular pain. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management. 2007;34(4):434–445.
- Morris CE, Skalak TC. Acute exposure to a moderate strength static magnetic field reduces edema formation in rats. American Journal of Physiology. Heart and Circulatory Physiology. 2008;294(1):H50–H57.
- Pittler MH, Brown EM, Ernst E. Static magnets for reducing pain: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized trials. CMAJ. 2007;177(7):736–742.
- Richmond SJ, Brown SR, Campion PD, et al. Therapeutic effects of magnetic and copper bracelets in osteoarthritis: a randomised placebo-controlled crossover trial. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 2009;17(5–6):249–256.
- Rumbaut RE, Mirkovic D. Magnetic therapy for edema in inflammation: a physiological assessment.American Journal of Physiology. Heart and Circulatory Physiology. 2008;294(1):H19–H20.
- Vallbona C, Richards T. Evolution of magnetic therapy from alternative to traditional medicine. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America. 1999;10(3):729–754.
For More Information
The NCCAM Clearinghouse provides information on NCCAM and complementary health approaches, including publications and searches of Federal databases of scientific and medical literature. The Clearinghouse does not provide medical advice, treatment recommendations, or referrals to practitioners.
A service of the National Library of Medicine (NLM), PubMed® contains publication information and (in most cases) brief summaries of articles from scientific and medical journals.
NIH Clinical Research Trials and You
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has created a Web site, NIH Clinical Research Trials and You, to help people learn about clinical trials, why they matter, and how to participate. The site includes questions and answers about clinical trials, guidance on how to find clinical trials through ClinicalTrials.gov and other resources, and stories about the personal experiences of clinical trial participants. Clinical trials are necessary to find better ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat diseases.
NCCAM thanks the following people for their technical expertise and review of this publication: Partap Khalsa, D.C., Ph.D., and John (Jack) Killen, Jr., M.D., NCCAM.
This publication is not copyrighted and is in the public domain. Duplication is encouraged.