How Magnetic Therapy Works

What is Magnetism?

Magnetism is a phenomenon involving magnetic fields and the physical effects they exert on other substances and objects exposed to them. A magnetic field is a region of force that extends into the space surrounding the magnet. A magnetic field can be pictured as a series of curved lines radiating from, and connecting, the north and south poles of the magnet. These are known as lines of force. The Earth itself, in fact, acts as a gigantic magnet. Its magnetic field, produced by electrical currents flowing inside the liquid part of its iron core, expands out for thousands of miles into space.

The Earth acts as a gigantic magnet.

All living things are constantly surrounded by the Earth's powerful magnetic field.

Magnetic fields created by both permanent magnets and electromagnets have the same effects on surrounding objects. They are both types of electromagnetic fields. The force generated by electromagnetic fields, along with gravity, the weak nuclear force, and the strong nuclear force, constitute the four fundamental forces of nature.

How Do Magnetic Fields Affect the Body?

Magnetism affects the body through a number of various systems in the body, including the circulatory, nervous, and endocrine systems. Magnetic fields constantly penetrate all particles, down to the atomic level. Magnetism has an ordering effect on living things, which arises from the fact that magnetism is necessary for life itself. Recent studies have found that magnetic fields have significant biological effects on the human body. Following, is a list of the various processes believed to occur when a person is exposed to magnetic fields. The processes are thought to contribute to pain relief and improved health.

  • Exposure to a magnetic field results in an increase of the electrical conductivity of blood. When blood with a weak current runs through a magnetic field, ionization is increased. Then, the newly ionized blood circulates throughout the body, improving the efficiency of blood flow, increasing the amount of oxygenation, and helping to stabilize blood pressure.
Biomagnetic therapy works by increasing blood flow and oxygen content.

Magnetic fields act to stimulate circulation and increase the amount of oxygen carried by blood.

  • Blood contains iron (ferrous hemoglobin), which is responsible for carrying both oxygen and carbon dioxide. As blood circulates through the lungs, magnetized ferrous hemoglobin is able to carry more oxygen to cell tissues, as well as take more carbon dioxide away from cells to the lungs for removal. This increases the efficiency of blood flow.
  • When living tissue is exposed to magnetic fields, a secondary current is formed around the flux-lines within the cells. This causes ionization of the protoplasm, and activates cell metabolism. Proper cell functions is then stimulated, as the cell metabolism reacts to the electrical current created by the magnetic field. This current can reduce the occurrence of muscle spasms and reduce tissue inflammation. This increase in the metabolism of the cell aids in new cell growth and existing cell regeneration.
  • Negative-pole energy of a magnetic field may interfere with the ability of nerve cells to send pain impulses to the brain, where the sensation of pain is registered. When a negative magnetic field is placed near a nerve, the positively charged ions of the nerve's impulses are attracted to the negative magnetic field, resulting in a decrease in the flow of positively charged ions along the nerves to the brain.
  • Magnetism may work to help regulate hormone secretions in the glands of the endocrine system. One theory, is that the increase in electrical current created by a magnet forms a type of net around the glands and secretory ducts. An increase in the concentration of oxygen stimulates production, while the net helps regulate secretion levels. Normalizing the hormone levels within the body affects a variety of conditions created by hormone imbalances. Hormones are critical for regeneration and overall energy levels, while proper blood circulation helps ensure that hormone levels are distributed uniformly throughout the body.

Recent Research Using Magnetic Therapy

Physicist, Dr. Buryl Payne, has published some in-depth studies on magnetism and the body, and is considered to be one authority on the subject. According to Dr. Payne, sensitive instruments have allowed scientists to observe and record some of the ways magnetic fields affect living organisms - specific ways now known to be factors in magnetic healing. An increase in blood flow, along with the resulting increase in oxygen capacity, both of which are major factors in helping the body heal itself, can be attributed to the presence of a magnetic field.

Magnetic fields can also change the oscillation of calcium ions, which can transport calcium ions to heal a broken bone in about half the usual time. The pH balance of body fluids, which is often incorrect during illness, can apparently be altered by exposure to magnetic fields. The level of hormone production and secretion from the endocrine glands can be altered, and enzyme activity can be changed by magnetic stimulation as well.

Biomagnetic therapy can be used to improve blood flow.

Magnetic fields can help to stimulate blood flow and increase blood oxygenation.

Dr. Payne's findings are supported by various studies done by other doctors. Dr. Kenneth MacLean, founder of the Institute of Biomagnetics, in New York, has treated cancer patients described as "hopeless," using powerful magnets. After studying microscopic cellular changes after treatment with magnets, his conclusion was that "exposure to strong magnetic fields was at least beneficial in every case and harmful in none". In a few cases, his patients reacted so favorably, becoming virtually pain free, that he has expanded his treatment using electromagnetic fields.

In an article by D.C. Laycock, Ph.D, he states that "pain is transmitted as an electrical signal which encounters gaps at intervals along it's path. The signal is transferred in the form of a chemical signal across the synaptic gap and this is detected by receptors on the post synaptic membrane". Therefore, electromagnetic fields can effectively stop the perception of pain, by disrupting the electrical signals required to trigger the release of the chemical transmitter utilized by the nervous system to perceive the sensation of pain.

Researchers in California, at Loma Linda University's School of Medicine, tracking studies in over a dozen countries, with over a thousand patients, found that "low-frequency, low-intensity magnetic energy has been successful in treating chronic pain related to tissue ischemia, and also worked in clearing up slow healing ulcers, and in ninety-percent of patients tested, raised blood flow significantly".

Biomagnetic therapy is receiving increased coverage in medical journals as a viable treatment for osteoarthritis. Trial studies have been performed on groups of people where half were treated with magnetic fields, and the other half received a placebo treatment. At the end of the study, the magnetic treatment group had indicated improvements over the placebo group regarding symptoms including pain, tenderness, and the ability to perform day-to-day activities.

Studies have shown that osteoarthritis can be treated using magnetic therapy.

Biomagnetic therapy has been used to successfully treat degenerative joint diseases like osteoarthritis.

Peter Gwynne reported in an issue of MIT's Technology Review, that "Biomagnetism is promising to take a role in medical diagnosis, helping physicians zero in on a spectrum of ailments ranging from brain disorders to lung disease to liver conditions." The U.S. Government has invested several million dollars into biomagnetic research. Although scientists state that biomagnetic therapy is still an experimental science, and not established as a diagnostic procedure, they do agree that, unlike some other alternative therapy techniques, biomagnetisim is non-invasive and non-harmful.

In a study published in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, researchers from the Baylor College of Medicine discovered that real therapy magnets were more better than fake magnets for relieving pain caused by post-polio syndrome. This syndrome, characterized by leg pain, affects up to 20% of polio sufferers later in life. In this controlled study, 76% of the patients treated with magnetic therapy experienced less pain. Only 18% treated of the patients treated with the fake magnets felt relief.

Researchers from the Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston found that medical magnets were successful in reducing muscle pain resulting from fibromyalgia, which is a painful condition thought to be caused by overactive nerves. In the study, patients who slept on magnetic mattresses experienced more pain relief than patients who slept on regular mattresses.

In a study performed at the New Your Medical College of Valhalla, magnetic foot pads were found to be better than non-magnetic foot pads for reducing the numbness, tingling and pain caused by diabetic neuropathy. The research suggests that around 80% of individuals who suffer from chronic pain could benefit from magnetic therapy. This could be a good sign for people suffering from other types of chronic pain.

Veterinarians have been using biomagnetic therapy as a treatment for injury and pain, especially in horses. Vets and trainers place therapeutic magnets around injured parts of horses. They claim that the healing process is enhanced and accelerated by using them. Reputable vets and trainers have noted positive effects using medical magnets as part of the treatment process.

Negative Versus Positive Pole (North/South)

A current point of contention in the biomagnetic therapy community, is when to use the negative (or north) pole and when to use the positive (or south) pole. This idea began in the 1930s with studies done by Davis and Rawls, which suggested that exposure to negative poles enhanced health, while positive poles did not.

Recently, Dr. William Philpott has supported this view based on his own clinical experiences. Some other researchers claim that alternating polarity arrangements is more beneficial (having both poles on the same surface of the magnet). Additionally, some claim that polarity has no impact on the benefits of magnetic fields. There are no conclusive clinical studies showing that a particular polarity is more or less beneficial, but this is an issue that will probably be more thoroughly studied in the near future.

Magnets have a north and a south pole.

There is some controversy in the biomagnetic therapy community about when to use the north pole and when to use the south pole.

If you find that you would prefer to use a specific polarity, keep the following in mind: There are two conventions of naming the north pole of the magnet: 1) the traditional, scientific, or navigation way; and 2) the magnetic therapy way. Using the traditional method, the part of the magnet that points towards north (such as in a compass) is labeled the north pole of the magnet. The magnetic therapy method is the opposite - the pole that opposes the north is labeled the north pole of the magnet. Strictly speaking, the traditional way is incorrect, as like poles of separate magnets resist each other - opposite poles attract. So, the pole of magnet that points north is, in fact, the south pole of the magnet.

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Image credits under the creative commons license:
Drdan14 | L shell global dipole
Unknown | Magnetic Therapy Diagram
BruceBlaus | Osteoarthritis

Søren Peo Pedersen | Ferromagnetism vs orthomagnetism