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Engineering Snake Oil: Does Magnetic Therapy Work?

Posted February 10, 2020 8:00 AM by Hannes
Pathfinder Tags: magnetic therapy snake oil

Last month, CR4 users participated in a lively discussion about the scientific basis (or lack therof) for dowsing. This month, Engineering Snake Oil will look at magnetic and electromagnetic therapy.

Have you ever seen people wearing a metal bracelet like the one shown here? These folks are participating in magnetic therapy, which purports that applying the weak magnetic field generated by a permanent magnet to the body can relieve pain or other ailments. Science has found little basis for its effectiveness, but many swear by magnetic therapy, to the tune of $1 billion in global profits for the industry every year. Some “higher-quality” magnetic bracelets are sold for over $100 each, along with magnetic creams, blankets and inserts for clothing or shoes.

A close cousin of magnetic therapy is electromagnetic therapy (EMT), which uses electromagnetic radiation from a powered device. EMT devices have been around for a little over a century, and have been touted by their inventors as effective treatments for ailments as wide-ranging as cancer, chronic pain, diabetes and dental ailments. Like magnetic therapy, science has found little evidence for EMT’s effectiveness.

Consult Wikipedia’s pages on magnetic therapy and EMT for more detailed info.

So, in your expert engineering opinion: do magnetic therapy and EMT have scientific merit, or are they pure pseudoscientific quackery? Should one work better than they other? Why or why not?

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#1

Re: Engineering Snake Oil: Does Magnetic Therapy Work?

02/10/2020 11:29 AM

It is fact; if you believe it works, it will.

I would never suggest that any of this these "therapies" will cure anything, but they might provide relief of symptoms.

(And there is nothing wrong with that. No one can prove that any harm would be done, other to one's wallet, but if the therapy brings someone some measure of relief to the afflicted individual, go for it.)

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#4
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Re: Engineering Snake Oil: Does Magnetic Therapy Work?

02/10/2020 8:26 PM

No harm will be done providing that there is nothing seriously wrong. But if you have a serious condition that can be treated with real medicine, and instead you rely on magic magnetism, the results could be tragic.

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#5
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Re: Engineering Snake Oil: Does Magnetic Therapy Work?

02/10/2020 8:49 PM

2nd line above.

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#7
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Re: Engineering Snake Oil: Does Magnetic Therapy Work?

02/10/2020 10:47 PM

masking pain with placebos does not make the underlying cause go away. i've seen several people suppress serious medical conditions by taking rising doses of analgesics, to their serious detriment. pain is a message!

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#13
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Re: Engineering Snake Oil: Does Magnetic Therapy Work?

02/11/2020 8:13 PM

I agree . . . but analgesics are not placebos.

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#26
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Re: Engineering Snake Oil: Does Magnetic Therapy Work?

02/22/2020 7:32 PM

Or they may supply ‘hope’.

And hopefully not disappointment.
A good Attitude as well as a optimistic frame of mind does have a positive effect on life.

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#2

Re: Engineering Snake Oil: Does Magnetic Therapy Work?

02/10/2020 12:59 PM

Quoting the late, great, P. T. Barnum, "...there's one born every minute..."

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#10
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Re: Engineering Snake Oil: Does Magnetic Therapy Work?

02/11/2020 8:35 AM

Yes indeed. As long as (mentioned by others) that this is not the only remedy applied. Placebos do have their place for those hypochondriacs which seem to abound.

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#3

Re: Engineering Snake Oil: Does Magnetic Therapy Work?

02/10/2020 1:06 PM

As Brave Sir Robin mentions, Psychosomatic treatments like placebos, can and for some do work and should not be scoffed at when they help. Relying solely on this type of treatment verges on criminal quackery.

As far as electromagnetic uses in therapy, diathermy is a well-understood use of part of the electromagnetic spectrum to gently warm soft tissue to promote healing or when more focused to cauterize in an extremely precise fashion.

EMT or radionics appears to be pure quackery bunk. It should be noticed that "frequency" is actually a mathematical term about one variable changing in a bound, repeating pattern with respect to another unbound variable. In radionics, neither variable is ever well identified. As such proof that one has changed anything but the amount in your wallet can never be demonstrated or refuted.

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#6

Re: Engineering Snake Oil: Does Magnetic Therapy Work?

02/10/2020 10:05 PM

Along the same lines, look up crystals and Google feeds you garbage about healing...

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#9
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Re: Engineering Snake Oil: Does Magnetic Therapy Work?

02/11/2020 2:25 AM

Add to that the Himalayan rock salt complete with light to absorb all manner of ailment producing bad airs and even better when shaped into pyramids.

Bad airs now wasn't that debunked in the 1800s when the sewerage, is there a difference with the current devices, was dumped directly into the rivers.

Add to this the copper bracelets, the only effect I see is the skin turns green under the bracelet which would be good for an albino frog trying to impress Miss Piggy and the snake oil salesmen abound.

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#8

Re: Engineering Snake Oil: Does Magnetic Therapy Work?

02/11/2020 12:07 AM

You might want to look at information from other sources than a Wiki article.

PEMF (NOT those stupid bracelets) has been and is being used with some effect.

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#19
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Re: Engineering Snake Oil: Does Magnetic Therapy Work?

02/13/2020 1:22 AM

Kilowatt0 ---

its disappointing you link to clinically proven results and everyone just ignores it

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#11

Re: Engineering Snake Oil: Does Magnetic Therapy Work?

02/11/2020 8:41 AM

I woke up and consumed about a half teaspoon of Himalayan salt with hot water.

Followed by morning coffee.

The salt lamp is just for looking at.

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#12

Re: Engineering Snake Oil: Does Magnetic Therapy Work?

02/11/2020 11:26 AM

My wife is a believer so I am too.

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#14
In reply to #12

Re: Engineering Snake Oil: Does Magnetic Therapy Work?

02/11/2020 8:18 PM

existence of physical phenomena, or lack thereof, is not a matter of belief. if i choose to not believe in gravity, i remain in close proximity to the earth.

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#16
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Re: Engineering Snake Oil: Does Magnetic Therapy Work?

02/12/2020 11:26 PM

I recently replaced the lamp in my wife's Himalayan Salt lamp, to help keep her happy.

She apparently believes it has some beneficial effect; I definitely do not! It only wastes a small amount of energy, so I leave it alone.

Perhaps a corollary to "If you believe it will work, then it will." is "If you believe it won't work, then it won't.", at least regarding non-quantifiable properties like pain or appetite.

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#18
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Re: Engineering Snake Oil: Does Magnetic Therapy Work?

02/13/2020 12:41 AM

My mom at one time had been wearing one of those wristbands embedded with magnets to help the arthritis in her hands. She said it helped reduce the pain. I saw no reason to try to convince her otherwise. I'm sure my dad, a pragmatic engineer, felt the same way. (nothing to be gained, a lot to lose)

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#15

Re: Engineering Snake Oil: Does Magnetic Therapy Work?

02/11/2020 11:28 PM

I don't know about that one, but I have a 99.99% pure virgin copper magnet bracelet. I saw it on an infomercial at OhDarkThirty between the colon cleansing and toxic foot paste. So you know it's real.

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#17
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Re: Engineering Snake Oil: Does Magnetic Therapy Work?

02/12/2020 11:52 PM

what are the medicinal properties of a 100 foot coil of14/2 copper wire, with ground conductor?

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#21
In reply to #17

Re: Engineering Snake Oil: Does Magnetic Therapy Work?

02/13/2020 2:06 AM

Well the local authority (wife) on these esoteric devices has a wire embedded sheet that she plugs into the ground connection on the outlet net to our bed. She says it help keep her grounded. I'm all for that but what if there is a short in our wiring? Bed could heat up fast and not the way I wish it would.

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#22
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Re: Engineering Snake Oil: Does Magnetic Therapy Work?

02/13/2020 10:32 AM

All those are interchangeable .

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#20

Re: Engineering Snake Oil: Does Magnetic Therapy Work?

02/13/2020 1:55 AM

Seen these around for years now. Made specifically of copper.

It has been found (it was said then) that absorption of copper metal can interfere with the rhythm system of the heart. Same way that absorption of chromium from the back of watches can be the cause of allergy or local rash.

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#23

Re: Engineering Snake Oil: Does Magnetic Therapy Work?

02/13/2020 11:46 AM

I don't know about magnets for bodily therapy, but I know they work on my house water system to keep minerals from precipitating out in the water heater and on faucets, etc. There are also verified therapies for depression using focused magnetic fields to manipulate areas of the brain (transcranial magnetic stimulation).

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#24

Re: Engineering Snake Oil: Does Magnetic Therapy Work?

02/13/2020 1:25 PM

When I had "low back" surgery with the installation of MUCH metal hardware, I was prescribed for, and the insurance company paid for, an electromagnetic waistband that I was to wear for one hour, twice a day, for around 60 days. It was a pain in the arse, but my back healed really well and I've seen others with similar surgery that didn't use one who have had or are currently having big-time problems.

That said, I'm 100% sure that if it was the device that worked so well it was because it was electromagnetic. I don't think a permanent magnet would have worked since it doesn't cycle like an electromagnetic device. However, I don't really know the science behind this other than the (magnetic) pulsing and how that affect the physiology of one's body.

Does anyone know - deep heating, increases blood flow, just what?

Justsayin',

TBC

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#25
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Re: Engineering Snake Oil: Does Magnetic Therapy Work?

02/13/2020 1:34 PM

My only speculation is that this slightly heated the tissue and increased circulation around the metal hardware to promote healing.

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