Magnetic Therapy - A Modern Perspective
In 1967, NASA conducted a series of research studies to understand the potential risks and health effects of spaceflight. In one experiment, laboratory mice were isolated from the earth's natural magnetic field using special containers. The researchers later describe how the mice exhibited a bizarre and "highly unusual behavior of lying on their backs for prolonged periods of time." Without a magnetic field, they became docile and inactive.
Magnetic fields influence a number of biological processes, including blood circulation in capillaries, regulating circadian rhythm (our natural sleep/wake cycle), and improving bone growth and wound healing. Currently, there are over 300 studies from around the world that provide evidence for the health benefits magnets can provide.
Conversely, studies are also examining the potential long-term health risks of electromagnetic fields generated by power lines, cell phones, and electronic devices. While the two types of magnetic fields (static and electromagnetic) are very different, it's clear the human body can be affected by both.
Despite this evidence, for the past 50 years, conventional medicine has been overly-focused on pharmaceutical solutions. "The approach has been to look for magic bullets in medicine," says Dr. Beverly Rubik, a past advisory panel member to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Alternative Medicine (now the NCCAM). "That approach works well with acute diseases, but it does not work for chronic degenerative disease...where it's impossible to point to a single cause."
Linking Modern and Traditional
While magnet therapy, acupuncture, and other forms of alternative medicine may appear strange or "pseudoscientific", upon closer examination the links between alternative and mainstream medicine become much clearer.
According to Dr. Michael Tierra, founder of the American Herbalists Guild, what Traditional Chinese Medicine terms as 'Chi' and East Indian Ayurveda defines as 'Prana', is actually the equivalent of bioelectricity. He illustrates that as "modern medicine has come to depend upon such high tech diagnostic procedures as the (ECG) electro-cardiogram, and the (EEG) electroencephalogram...if there were no electrical energy in the body, such tests would not be possible."
"The human body is constructed of many different electrically conductive materials, and forms a living electromagnetic field and circuit," explains Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming, a renowned expert in Qigong and Chinese martial arts. "Electromagnetic energy is continuously being generated in the human body through the biochemical reaction in food and air assimilation, and circulated by the electromotive forces (EMF) generated within the body."
Dr. Jwing-Ming says much of the research on the body's electrical field relates to acupuncture. "Countless experiments have been conducted in China, Japan, and other countries to study how external magnetic or electrical fields can affect and adjust the body's Qi field. For example, Dr. Robert O. Becker, author of The Body Electric, reports that the conductivity of the skin is much higher at acupuncture points...[and] in the 1960's, several investigators discovered that bones are 'piezoelectric'; that is, when they are stressed, mechanical energy is converted to electrical energy in the form of electric current."
How Do Magnets Work?
The human body is not based simply on biochemical reactions, but also electromagnetic interactions. Biological processes, like smooth muscle contractions and nerve signals, are controlled by the balance and movement of chemical ions. These are biochemicals (e.g. calcium, sodium, potassium) that have a positive or negative electric charge. They can be influenced chemically, as with drugs, as well as by external electrical and magnetic fields.
Based on more current studies, researchers believe magnets may make it easier for ions to shift and move through membrances (ion channels), triggering biological processes more efficiently. For example, the body uses calcium ions as a messenger system, causing the smooth muscle walls of capillary blood vessels to either relax or constrict. This increases or decreases the amount of blood flow.
Researchers from Japan, and more recently, the University of Virginia, have observed that when exposing an injured area to a strong magnetic field, changes in blood flow happened much faster. Interestingly, magnetic fields were able to both decrease blood flow to reduce swelling quicker, and later increase blood flow for faster healing. This means the magnets were not causing changes directly, but rather improving the body's own ability to regulate blood flow - likely by improving the ion signal process.
Separating magnet therapy from almost every other form of alternative or mainstream medicine, both doctors and researchers agree that magnets are safe and do not cause side effects when used properly. This is because instead of changing processes chemically, biomagnetics enhance the body's own abilities to heal itself after injury and reduce pain signals. For this reason, people with chronic conditions, like arthritis, tendinitis and fibromyalgia, are turning to magnets as a safer form of pain relief.
Use Around the World
Today, magnet therapy is used in Germany, France, Britain, India, Japan, China, Italy, Israel and about 40 other countries. A number of government health systems, such as Japan's Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, officially recognize magnet therapy as a safe, viable and cost-effective treatment option. Britain is the most recent to adopt magnetic therapy, where doctors are prescribing magnets to both heal and help prevent the development of leg ulcers - reducing the time and costs of patient care.
While magnet therapy is not fully understood, millions of people have benefited from its use for pain relief, improved healing, and better sleep. Of all forms of alternative medicine, magnetic therapy is both the safest and easiest to use. It offers the best opportunity for sustainable, long-term pain relief and better quality of life, without the worry of side effects. This alone makes magnets the ideal first choice for arthritis and chronic pain management, before trying other options.
Article by Joshua Spiegler