There are numerous published theories regarding the possible medicinal value of static magnets or electromagnetic fields, although high quality scientific research is lacking. Proposed mechanisms include effects on blood vessels (improvements in blood circulation, increases in oxygen content of the blood), alkalinization of bodily fluids, decreases in blood vessel wall deposition of toxic materials or cholesterol plaques, relaxation of blood vessels (due to effects on cellular calcium-channels), effects on the nervous system (alterations in nerve impulses), blockage of nerve-cell conduction, reduction of edema (fluid retention), increases in local tissue oxygen, increases in endorphins, relaxation of muscles, changes in cell membranes, or stimulation of acupoints (similar to the proposed activity of acupuncture needles). In some types of traditional Chinese medicine, magnets are believed to set up specific patterns of flow of the body' s life force or chi (qi).
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Diabetic foot pain:
Initial research reports significant reductions in foot burning, numbness, tingling, and walking-induced foot pain with the use of static magnetic shoe insoles. Effects are reported to take three to four months to be noted.
Static magnets might benefit myofascial pain conditions. More studies are needed to make a strong recommendation.
Early scientific evidence suggests that the time to heal wounds, including ulcers, may decrease with the use of static magnets. More studies are needed before a firm recommendation can be made.
Chronic low back pain:
The use of permanent or harnessed bipolar magnets in the treatment of chronic back pain is controversial. Early evidence with stronger magnets (up to 2,000 gauss strength) reported benefits, while more recent study with lower strength magnets (450 gauss strength) noted no effects. Additional research is necessary in this area before a firm conclusion can be drawn.
Chronic pelvic pain:
Preliminary research reports reductions of pain in women with chronic refractory pelvic pain using magnet therapy. Well-designed studies are needed in this area before a conclusion can be drawn.
A few case reports show that incorporation of dental magnets into dentures may be useful for patients with limited ability to tolerate or control removable dentures. Further research is needed to confirm these results.
The effectiveness of magnet therapy as an additive treatment for fibromyalgia has been assessed in preliminary studies (including the use of magnetic sleep pads). Results of recent research suggest that magnetic fields may not be helpful for this condition. Better study is necessary before a firm conclusion can be drawn.
There is not enough scientific evidence to recommend for or against the use of magnets for the treatment of menopausal symptoms.
Multiple sclerosis (MS):
Initial studies of electromagnetic field therapy for MS report varied results, with one trial suggesting improvement in spasticity but not other symptoms and a different study finding improvement in a combined rating for bladder control, cognitive function, fatigue level, mobility, spasticity, and vision (but no change in overall symptom score). Due to methodological weaknesses of these studies, it remains unclear if electromagnetic field therapy is beneficial in patients with MS.
Pulsed electromagnetic therapy and magnetic "necklaces" have been used and studied in people with chronic neck pain. Research is limited and not well designed. Better studies are necessary before a firm conclusion can be drawn.
Non-union of fractures/fracture healing (general):
Several studies report that pulsed electromagnetic fields may improve healing of fractures that have not healed properly, including long bone, scaphoid, metatarsal (foot bone), and vertebral fractures.
In theory, pulsed electromagnetic fields may assist with the management of other types of fractures that have failed to heal completely. However, there is insufficient evidence to evaluate the use of electrical stimulation for fracture nonunions of other bones in the body other than the long bones. Further research is necessary before a firm conclusion can be drawn.
Osteoarthritis (knee, shoulder, spine, cervical):
Several studies have evaluated the use of magnetic field therapy applied to areas of osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease. In particular, this research has focused on knee osteoarthritis. More studies are needed before a recommendation can be made in this area.
Plantar fasciitis (heel pain):
There is conflicting evidence as to whether static magnets in shoe insoles can offer any benefit in patients with heel pain. More study is needed
Preliminary research reports improved muscle strength and pain in post-polio patients receiving therapy with static magnetic fields. Additional study is necessary before a firm conclusion can be drawn.
Rheumatoid arthritis pain:
Initial evidence has failed to show improvements in knee pain with the use of magnet therapy. However, due to methodological weaknesses with this research, the conclusions cannot be considered definitive.
Tinnitus (ringing in the ears):
There are several small studies of electromagnetic stimulation for tinnitus. Some trials report no benefits, while one study reports significant improvements in symptom severity. A different trial reports no significant benefits of ear canal magnets. Most research in this area has not been well designed or reported, and it remains unclear if magnet therapy is useful for this condition.
Several small preliminary studies have been conducted using electromagnetic stimulation therapy in patients with urinary incontinence (including both stress and urge incontinence). Although the initial results are promising, better quality studies are necessary before a clear conclusion can be drawn.
Static magnets have been used to increase athletic performance, but do not appear to be beneficial for this use. Additional study is needed.
Carpal tunnel syndrome:
Preliminary evidence suggests that a magnet attached via a bracelet to the wrist for 45 minutes does not improve pain in people with carpal tunnel syndrome.
Hot flashes (chemotherapy related):
Early research using static magnets did not appear to reduce the number or intensity of hot flashes related to breast cancer treatment.
Muscle soreness (delayed onset):
Static magnets applied after exhaustive exercise did not seem to prevent development of muscle soreness. More studies are needed to confirm this conclusion.
Sleep disorders (snoring and sleep apnea):
Biomagnetic therapy has been suggested as a possible therapy for snoring and obstructive sleep apnea syndrome. However, early evidence does not support this use.