Magnet therapy is a type of therapeutic treatment which involves the application of small static magnets to various locations on the body. Advocates of magnet therapy make a number of claims about its efficacy, arguing that it can be used to treat all sorts of conditions, from gout to cancer. However, many people in the medical community are highly skeptical about magnet therapy, and their skepticism is well-grounded: numerous studies have shown that magnet therapy is probably largely useless.
People have certainly be using magnets in the healing arts for a very long time. The Ancient Greeks, for example, documented the use of magnets in the treatment of various medical conditions, and in the 1800s, magnet therapy experienced a big comeback, along with a variety of other alternative medicine practices. Although magnet therapy is not quite as popular as it was in its heyday, it certainly has a number of subscribers today.
The argument which proponents of magnet therapy put forth is that the small magnetic fields generated by magnets worn on the body can influence the rate of healing. For example, magnets are supposed to stimulate blood flow, accelerate the rate of bone healing, and ease inflammation associated with various conditions. To this end, people wear magnetic bracelets and pads, or attach magnets directly to themselves with adhesives.
Scientific research has shown that certain types of magnetic fields do in fact influence the body; for example, pulsing fields appear to help with inflammation. However, these magnetic fields cannot be generated by the small magnets sold by magnet therapy practitioners. Numerous studies including double blind studies have shown that magnets work no more effectively than placebos, and in some studies, the placebo has actually performed better.
One of the main concerns among opponents to magnet therapy is that people may disregard other courses of treatment in the interest of pursuing magnet therapy, and this could be very dangerous. Some doctors are certainly open to complementary treatment, such as using magnets in an attempt to treat cancer while also pursuing more aggressive actions, like chemotherapy and surgery. However, patients who choose to rely solely on magnets for medical treatment risk serious complications, including death, as a result of a lack of proper treatment.
Because magnet therapy has become widespread and profitable, many nations have attempted to regulate it. Government agencies may, for example, regulate the claims which can be made about the efficacy of magnets, and people who make unrealistic claims may be prosecuted by law.