Magnets & Pain

I dunno how this would help someone who is in pain, but the human body CAN be affected by magnetism. Remember, the main component of hemoglobin (that stuf fin your red blood cells) is iron. Other fluids in the body might also have components that are affected by magentism, but I’m not enough of a chemist or biologist to know for sure.

If nothing else, there IS a reason (other than new-age-psychobable) to make the case that magnets and magnetism have an effect on the body. I’m surprised Cecil missed this one.

Hemoglobin is, in its natural state in the body, not magnetic, even though it has iron in it. However that isn’t to disregard the effect that magnets may have on the body. At least one recent study has strengthened the notion that there is a cause-and-effect relationship between exposure to EMF (electromagnetic field) radiation and leukemia in children. The scientists who performed that study are now looking for a physiological explanation for this.

Vanderbilt University Medical Center has been involved in Neuromagnetics research. One of their. Professors developed the Magna Bloc system. This could be a good place to find out more about magnets relieving pain.


That comment on neuroscience reminded me that nerve impulses are actually electrical, and electricity is affected by magnetic fields. I wonder if THIS might have something to do with it?

I just ran across a blurb in a magazine-must be karma. Quote. "Some magnets are effective, according to recent studies by Michael I. Weintraub, M.D., (hey! a real name and place!) chief of neurology at Phelps Memorial Hospital in Sleepy Hollow, NY.
“Magnets help patients with carpal tunnel syndrome, muscle sprains and back pain,” he says. His research also showed that certain magnetic foot pads relieved foot pain in 75 to 90 percent of people with diabetic peripheral neuropathy, a complication from diabetes that can cause numbness and tingling of the feet. When numbness and tingling were due to cancer or lupus, the pads helped 33 to 50 percent of the people.
Dr. Weintraub theorizes that magnets lessen pain by interfering with nerves that send pain signals to the brain. However, the benefits lasted only as long as the magnets were worn, and patients had to wear the magnets for at least a month before they felt relief. “Right now, there’s no scienific evidence to support all the products on the market” says Dr. W. “But magnets are safe for most people, so it’s easy to give them a try if nothing else works.”

Thanks for the info, popokis5. I (personally) am convinced that meagnets DO work to block pain by scrambling the electro-chemical nerve impulses that transmit pain to the brain.

Still, more study is clearly needed. First of all, pain treatment only treats a symptom, not the cause. Second, if magnets can block pain, what other effects do they have on our nervous system?

Still, there is encouraging that there are some true pyhsiological reasons for magents to work, other than new age “aura-speak.”

You rang, Klytus? =B^)

Personally, I do think that magnetism can help with pain, because I’ve tried it. (Warning: anecdote ahead! I neither intend nor expect to prove anything or convince people. I’m just stating an opinion.)

A few months ago I bought a bunch of strong, tiny magnets for a modelling project I was working on. When I found, during one of my worse periods of carpal tunnel pain, that I had some of those magnets left, I said “what the hell” and taped one to the pulse point on each wrist.

It seems to me that the pain is less severe when I have the magnets attached, and for several hours after I remove them. I don’t know whether this is due to magnetism, or the placebo effect, or whether it’s just my imagination. I like to think it’s the magnets, but it doesn’t much matter, as long as my experience of pain is lessenned.

I do take aspirin for pain, and when I’m sick or hurt, I see a doctor; I’m not some kind of “alternative medicine” guru. But the magnets seem to help, they didn’t cost me anything, and they sure aren’t doing any damage. So I don’t see any reason not to stick 'em on.

Aura says: << It seems to me that the pain is less severe when I have the magnets attached, and for several hours after I remove them. >>

It’s also possible that you move your wrists less when you have something taped on them, and that holding your wrists in less mobile fashion is what gives you the ease.

Could be, but I also have wrist braces that I usually wear at night. They immobilize the wrist pretty well, but I don’t get at all the same sort of sensation.

earendel1 said:

Warning: Correlatin is not causation.

The study in question did not, to my knowledge, make the claim that EMF radiation may cause childhood leukemia. What they said was that they noticed a slight statistical correlation – not even large enough to make any recommendations.

Remember that things may correlate without having a cause-and-effect relationship. For example, if the study was done based on the locations of electrical transformers (as some early ones were), you must take into account that some of these transformers contain hazardous chemicals (in other words, there may have been a correlation between the location and childhood cancers, but it may have had nothing at all to do with EMFs).

All in all, we need to wait for further reviews to come out before jumping to the conclusion that there is a cause-and-effect relationship here. (Remember that the first people making such claims believed a whole host of diseases were caused by EMFs – later studies showed otherwise.)

“We must fight any attempt on the part of the fringers and irrationalists to call to their side the force of the state. … That we must fight to the death.”
– Isaac Asimov

Did you know there’s a correlation between foot size and spoken vocabulary? It’s true! Now I’m waiting for someone to claim that this is a causal relationship.

OK, guys. time for a little physiology/physics lesson. The connection between electricity and magnetism is that moving electrons create a magnetic field. the electricity that comes through your toaster cord consists of electrons moving in the metal of the wire (from one atom to another). Thus, it generates a magnetic field and may take part in all sorts of magnetically fascinating science experiments. In a neuron, however – and beware because this is an incredible simplification – the “wire” is an extension of a nerve cell. (this part is called the axon and the longest ones run from your spinal cord all the way to your toe – that’s only one cell!) Anyway, inside the axon is regular old cell insides – not solid metal – and outside is an extracellular fluid. The impulse occurs in a given place along the wire when sodium ions (which are positive) rush from the positive cell outside to the (formerly negative) cell inside, through voltage-gated sodium ion channels embedded in the membrane (the outside of the wire). The depolarization – called such because instead of the inside being negative and the outside positive, the positive ions on the inside make the charges on each side similar (hey, if you don’t get it, don’t worry about it) – is a voltage change that causes the sodium channels just downstream to let in the sodium, and so forth. The membrane has its own little tricks to keep the impulse (called an action potential, or AP) from traveling backwards. Axons also have “insulation” in the form of myelin-containing Schwann cells. But this is not insulation like on electrical wires, which acts to keep electrons from flowing to the air instead of along the wire. The myelin has little gaps in it, so that the aforementioned ion-swapping (which involves potassium too, but let’s not get into that) only happens at certain points. It doesn’t keep energy from getting lost, it just allows the AP to move along faster.

Those of you that lost me around the part about the extracellular fluid – you can stop scrolling now; I’m getting to the point. Electromagnetism necessitates moving electrons, but nerve impulses involve no such thing. While voltage, current, and the like are involved, the nature of propagation of the nerve impulse is of a sort that cannot be affected by magnetism.

And, at a level of complexity intermediate between the previous two paragraphs:
In a wire and in a nerve, charge moves. But in a wire, the wave – OK, we’re thinking waves here – moves like a bee flying in a squiggly line. The bee is actually moving. In a nerve, however, the wave is more like people doing the wave in a stadium. The wave moves, but noone has to get out of their seat. However, it has to be more like the flying bee for magnets to enter the picture.

Got it?

Allright, this is going to be a bit of a rambler. There have been many studies that tried to find a link between electromagnetic fields, especially from power lines and certain forms of cancer, esp. leukemia, and it has been found that the link between the two is tenuous, at best. There was a great article in the New Yorker recently (a month or two ago?) that dealt with the whole public health research and investigation that is being done by various state public health departments, and, so far, nobody has found any solid proof between the two. There are just too many outside factors that can influence such a study (population movements, random chance increases in cancer rates, etc.). Plus, you’d have to watch a certain neighborhood for decades before you had any solid results.
But, I, myself, do think that magnetism, especially the high-powered kind from power lines has got to affect the human body somehow, even if it just messes with your very own minute electrical impulses in your nervous system. But i am no doctor (although i do work for a medical board) and don’t have the necessary scientific background to make any claims here. I’ll shut up now.

On the somewhat related issue of power lines that was brought up here, I just received an e-mail SKEPTIC MAG HOTLINE, which had the following in it:


>From the Medical Tribune News Service, June 22, 1999:
“Researcher On Power Line Effects Said To Have Faked Data”

Reports that a prominent national laboratory researcher falsified data in his studies on electric power lines should add to the
debate over whether power lines play a role in causing cancer, according to federal investigators.

In 1992, Robert P. Liburdy committed scientific misconduct in two studies examining the effect of magnetic and electrical fields (EMF) on cells being studied in test tubes, according to the
federal Office of Research Integrity (ORI). Prior to Liburdy’s studies, which spurred other such efforts, no plausible mechanism
for EMF causing cancer had been discovered.
o Investigators said in one case Liburdy discarded 93 percent of lab data that didn’t agree with his hypothesis that EMF affected living cells.
o Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, where Liburdy did his research, became suspicious, and began its own investigation in 1995.
o Even during the investigation, Liburdy continued to play a prominent role in the EMF controversy, speaking and appearing at conferences.
o ORI began its own investigation in 1998, after Lawrence Berkeley administrators told the federal government – which paid for the questionable research – that Liburdy had falsified his findings.

As part of his settlement with the government, Liburdy must withdraw parts of two studies and may not apply for federal
research money or act as an adviser to the Public Health Service for three years.

[In a wire and in a nerve, charge moves. But in a wire, the wave – OK, we’re thinking waves here – moves like a bee flying in a squiggly line. The bee is actually moving. In a nerve, however, the wave is more like people doing the wave in a stadium. The wave moves, but no one has to get out of their seat. However, it has to be more like the flying bee for magnets to enter the picture.]

Beth-- your explanation of the transmission of impulses through a nerve cell was fascinating… but the above description falls short of clarifying things for me. If energy is moving through a medium, there is by definition a wave. Is the bee in the wire a wave, or an electron? 'cuz one moves, the other doesn’t.

In an alternating current, electrons are alternately pushed and pulled within the wire. The flowing charge is a wave, analogous to an acoustic wave, or a P-wave. As with all waves, there is no net transfer of matter (electrons, in this case).

A changing electric field (whether a direct current or an alternating current) will generate a magnetic field, and a magnetic field will change an electric field. The bees don’t have to move, just the charge. In your description of a nerve cell, a pulse is moved from one end of the cell to the other, creating a changing electric field and, therefore, a magnetic field.

How the cell is affected by an external magnetic field is much more complex however, since the cell is not a simple copper wire with free valence electrons. My point is not to disagree with you about the susceptibility of nerve impulses to external magnetic fields, therefore, but to clarify the difference between moving charge, moving electrons, and moving waves…

Folks–for a magnet to create an elecric field, the magnet must be moving. That’s the principle on which generators are based. This may help solve this problem…

{{{Folks–for a magnet to create an elecric field, the magnet must be moving. That’s the principle on which generators are based. This may help solve this problem…}}}—Ennius

That pretty much sums it up…thanks for beating me to the punch… :smiley:

Common ¢ for all ages…
The spin cycle on the washing machine does not make earth worms dizzy. It will however, make cats dizzy. Cats throw up twice their body weight when dizzy.

Please remember to post a link to the column being discussed. Unless it’s here somewhere and I missed it.