Copper Bracelet for Arthritis Pain: Fact or Fiction?

Plus the Official Word on Magnetic Bracelets

Copper bracelets have been touted as a treatment for arthritis symptoms. You can easily pick one up at a drugstore or other shops where homeopathic medicines are sold. 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 each wore either a magnetic wrist strap or copper bracelet for arthritis then 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 or another implantable device, 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:

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do copper bracelets work for arthritis?

    Wearing a copper bracelet for arthritis won't hurt you, but there is no scientific evidence that it will ease your inflammation or other arthritis symptoms, either.

  • Who should not wear magnetic bracelets?

    You should not wear a magnetic bracelet if you wear an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), pacemaker, or insulin pump, as the magnetic bracelet could interfere with your device's normal functioning.

  • Do Copper Hands compression gloves help with arthritis?

    There are plenty of positive consumer reviews regarding the supposed benefits of Copper Hands. However, there is no clinical evidence that Copper Hands provide actual relief from arthritis symptoms.

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Copper Development Association. Medical uses of copper in antiquity.

  2. MedlinePlus. Copper in diet.

  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.

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

  6. Cleveland Clinic. Arthritis of the wrist and hand: Management and treatment.

  7. Kolasinski SL, Neogi T, Hochberg MC, et al. 2019 American College of Rheumatology/Arthritis Foundation guideline for the management of osteoarthritis of the hand, hip, and knee. Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2020;72(2):220-233. doi:10.1002/acr.24131

  8. Chehade L, Jaafar ZA, El Masri D, et al. Lifestyle modification in rheumatoid arthritis: Dietary and physical activity recommendations based on evidence. Curr Rheumatol Rev. 2019;15(3):209-214. doi:10.2174/1573397115666190121135940

By Steph Coelho
Steph Coelho is a freelance health writer, web producer, and editor based in Montreal. She specializes in covering general wellness and chronic illness.