from The Washington Post
Using a magnet to treat pain may not be as wacky an idea as it sounds. In a recent study of 50 patients, the application of a small magnet to painful muscles and joints was far more effective than application of an identical but non- magnetized device. Participants in the study had significant pain for at least four weeks because of post polio syndrome, the name given to the muscle weak- ness, fatigue, pain and other symptoms that can occur in adults who had severe polio when young. They were asked to assess their pain on a 10-point scale when a sensitive area (“trigger point”) was touched. A small magnet or placebo device (neither doctors nor participants knew who got which until after the study) was taped to the area and left for 45 minutes. When it was removed, they were again asked to gauge their pain. Twenty-two out of 29 patients who were treated with a real magnet were treated with a dummy magnet. Among those who reported improvement, the average decrease in pain score was 7 for the magnet group and only 4 for the dummy group. “We cannot explain the significant and quick pain relief reported by our study patients,” wrote the researchers, from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, in the November issue of the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. They speculated that the magnets might have caused changes in pain-receptor cells, provoked an indirect response in the brain or affected the release of pain-diminishing body chemicals called enkephalins.