Dr Richard Lawson

Easing pain with magnetic therapy

Extract from GP Medicine October 31 1999
Somerset GP, Dr Richard Lawson was intrigued to find that a natural cure benefited patients with osteoarthritis

About five years ago, a patient handed me a coil of flexible magnetic strip and suggested that I try it on patients with rheumatism. He said that it had helped him through wearing it on his wrists.
But I filed the strip under ‘miscellaneous’ and thought no more about magnets until this year, when I encountered more claims of their effectiveness in a variety of painful situations.
My first experiment with a wrist magnet
Being prepared to experiment, I gave the wrist magnet to a relative with chronic pain in the arm. To my surprise, she reported a rapid improvement.
Since then, I have suggested using the magnet to my patients and more than half have reported improvement in their pain.
If the patients present with chronic musculoskeletal problems during a normal surgery, they are offered the chance to try a magnet. It is explained to them that the chance of success is more than 50 per cent but that the treatment is not available on the NHS.

Many patients are prepared to risk the expense, and the supplier of the magnet is often prepared to refund the cost if the patient has no improvement.
I use a Bioflow magnet which costs £30. Cheaper alternatives are available by mail order but seem less robust. My practice has three magnets available for free trial, and patients who are unable to pay may use one of these.
Since January 1997, 34 patients have tried the magnets. In no case did symptoms worsen. Four males and 11 females reported no change in symptoms. Nineteen patients — 14 female and 5 males — reported improvements and six of these showed marked improvement. The average age of the patients in each group was similar.
The conditions for which the magnets improved the patient’s symptoms included osteoarthritis of the hands, hips and knees, cervical radiculopathy and rotator cuff syndrome. Patients with sciatica, epicondylitis, chronic myalgia did not respond to the treatment with the magnets.
Analgesic properties of magnetism
There is a growing body of literature on the therapeutic effects of magnetism, mainly from Eastern Europe, but increasingly from the USA as well.
Many of these reports are about the analgesic properties of magnetism but there are also descriptions of beneficial effects in Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. These include improvements in visual memory and other cognitive functions. Visual neglect in Parkinson’s disease has also responded to the treatment.
The conceptual stumbling block to the investigation of this form of treatment is the widespread notion that magnets only affect objects made of iron.
However, ferromagnetism is only one form of magnetic function. Other known forms include diamagnetism, where a magnetic field induces a current and subsequently an opposing magnetic force in a molecule.
Magnetic Resonance imaging is an example of diamagnetism. This imaging technique uses the fact that every electron, as it spins, acts as a small bar-magnet and that magnetic effect can be ordered and summated.
Although the causal mechanism for the therapeutic effects of wrist magnets is not known, it is likely that electrically charged macro-molecules are ordered as they pass through the magnetic field, helping physiological processes to work more efficiently.
Placebo effect cannot be ruled out
The placebo effect cannot be ruled out on the basis of my anecdotal evidence. But whatever the causal mechanism, the improvement in the comfort and quality of my patient’s lives is clear.
A double-blind clinical trial using dummy bracelets would help establish the efficiency of the treatment. But in common with many other non-drug treatments, a blind trial is not possible as patients can easily find out whether they are wearing a real magnet. In the meantime, experimentation with this approach to pain relief cannot do any harm, and may do much good.
Dr Lawson in a GP in Congresbury, Somerset
Magnets have improved patient’s symptoms in osteoarthritis of the hands, hips and knees
Dr Lawson’s anecdotal findings
· ·He suggested the use of magnets to patients after a relative found them very effective for chronic pain.
· · Thirty-four patients with chronic pain, mainly due to osteoarthritis, tried magnetic wrist bands
· · More than half the patients found that the magnets helped relieve their pain
· · The patients gained considerable relief from the magnetic wristband
  Dr Lawson’s case study
· · A 66 year old man presented with severe brachalgia with parasthesia and weakness in his left hand. Physiotherapy caused the pain to worsen.
· ·After three months, he developed pain in his right arm and left sciatic pain. The shoulder pain progressed but he responded to corticosteroid injections.
· · The patient had borne this stoically but developed muscular chest pain possibly related to hyperventilation. He was treated with rebreathing techniques
· · He visited the local pain clinic nine months after the brachalgia began but found that TENS was not helpful
· · A year after his symptoms began, I advised the patient to try a wrist magnet. Within eight days he declared himself to be much better.
· · The pain remained controlled until one day he had a sudden relapse. He discovered he had left the magnet off and the pain settled within an hour of reapplying the magnet


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Magnotherapy is the application of a magnetic field to living tissue. It has been used to help relieve aches and pains and to accelerate healing for hundreds of years and has gained rapid popularity in recent times:

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