Can Wearing a Copper Bracelet Ease Arthritis Pain?

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Anecdotally, copper bracelets have been touted as a treatment for arthritis symptoms. But does this alternative treatment actually have legs? The limited research on this concept suggests that wearing copper bracelets isn’t an effective treatment for arthritis.

While there are plenty of other unproven remedies for people with arthritis, many therapies are backed by thorough research. 

Copper bracelet

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How Copper Is Thought to Relieve Arthritis

Copper’s use in medical therapies goes way back. It was reportedly first used by ancient Egyptians for sterilization purposes. In the late 1800s, physicians began using copper as a treatment for arthritis.

Proponents of medicinal copper treatments believe that copper may play a part in tissue repair. As with most folk remedies, people who tout this arthritis treatment can’t quite explain the exact bodily mechanisms at work.

Wait, isn’t copper a heavy metal? Why do people think it can impact our health?

Copper is an essential mineral. You can find it in the human body, but only in trace amounts. It’s critical for the formation of red blood cells. It also helps with iron absorption and plays a role in the nerve, blood vessel, bone, and immune system health.

Its role in keeping the immune system healthy might be why people think it’s a potential treatment for arthritis. Some people might think this connection makes sense because arthritis is a disease caused by an overreaction of the body’s defense system.

Dietary Sources of Copper

Our bodies don’t naturally produce copper. We get it from our food. Sources include:

  • Shellfish
  • Beans 
  • Nuts
  • Whole grains
  • Potatoes
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Organ meats 
  • Cocoa
  • Dried fruits 
  • Yeast

What the Research Shows

While we know that copper plays a role in several vital bodily functions, there’s little research specifically about copper for arthritis treatment. There are even fewer that explore the usefulness of wearing copper in bracelet form for arthritis relief. 

One 2013 study looked at the effects of several wearable devices, including copper bracelets, for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. The study followed 65 participants who self-reported their results. The study found that none of the devices had a statistically significant effect in reducing arthritis symptoms.

People didn’t experience better physical function or lower medication use when wearing any of the devices. Researchers concluded that copper bracelets don’t have any meaningful effect, except perhaps a limited placebo effect, on rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.

A placebo effect happens when someone is undergoing treatment or taking a drug experiences positive effects that aren’t the result of the medication or therapy. They're instead due to a person’s belief that the treatment is effective. 

Some older studies also look at the effects of applying topical copper gels, but again there’s no evidence that these provide any benefits. 

Useless But It Won't Hurt You

Although a copper bracelet isn’t likely to provide any benefit aside from a placebo effect, wearing one isn’t harmful. Be wary of magnetic arthritis treatments, though. If you wear a pacemaker, wearing a magnetic bracelet can be dangerous.

Other Alternative Treatments

Living with arthritis can be difficult. The pain and inflammation may come and go. However, when symptoms happen, they can be debilitating and leave people unable to perform daily activities. 

Some research-backed treatments for arthritis that are included in clinical practice guidelines are:

Note that these therapies won’t cure arthritis or prevent further loss of cartilage. They may help manage symptoms like pain and stiffness. 

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health notes that some evidence has been found for these therapies:

People have anecdotally found the following therapies helpful for arthritis. However, more research is needed to confirm the potential benefits of these therapies:

Many of the above-listed treatments are considered natural therapies. However, they may still produce side effects. People who want to try supplements to treat arthritis should consult a doctor to avoid interactions. 

Lifestyle Measures

If you have arthritis, you can adopt some lifestyle changes to help ease symptoms. Some of these include:

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  2. MedlinePlus. Copper in diet. January 5, 2021.

  3. Richmond SJ, Gunadasa S, Bland M, Macpherson H. Copper bracelets and magnetic wrist straps for rheumatoid arthritis--analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects: a randomised double-blind placebo controlled crossover trial. PLoS One. 2013;8(9):e71529. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0071529 

  4. Harvard Medical School. The power of the placebo effect. August 9, 2019. 

  5. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Osteoarthritis: In depth. Updated September 2016.

  6. Cleveland Clinic. Arthritis of the wrist and hand: Management and treatment. April 1, 2017. 

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