Can Wearing a Magnetic Bracelet Ease Arthritis Pain?

Magnetic bracelets, a form of magnetic therapy, have been touted as an effective way to relieve arthritis pain, but research supporting these benefits is scant and some have suggested that the positive effects are likely due to the placebo effect (where people experience a benefit after being given an inactive treatment) rather than actual benefit. There are other alternative treatments for arthritis: Some also seem questionable, while others have evidence-based utility.

Woman working at a white desk grasping her left wrist

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Magnetic Bracelets in Medicine

Magnet therapy is one of the oldest recorded medical treatments in history. Unfortunately, that doesn't necessarily make it a good one. A magnetic bracelet with a promise to ease pain can seem like an attractive quick fix, but science has shown that it doesn't deliver on the benefits it promises.

History

The use of magnetic therapy has intrigued the general population and scientific community since at least the time of the ancient Greeks. Magnets are believed to have healing power for pain. Cleopatra is thought to have believed in and used magnetic therapy by sleeping with a magnet on her forehead to maintain a youthful appearance.

Aristotle, a Greek philosopher, touted magnets as a healing therapy. Other well-known scientists and public figures have made claims about magnetic therapy, including healthcare provider and physicist Sir William Gilbert, who stated he used magnets to relieve the arthritic pain of Queen Elizabeth.

Magnet bracelets became popular after professional athletes shared rave reviews about how magnets cured their aches and injuries.

Types

Magnetic bracelets on the market vary in types of metals and alloys used, construction, appearance, and strength. Between the many sellers, magnetic bracelets can have a sporty or fancy look. Some sellers have a vast selection including bangles, cuffs, links, or loose-fitting.

When it comes to the material used, different types of metals are used in these bracelets, including:

  • Stainless steel
  • Titanium
  • Hematite

Some magnetic bracelets are also made of ferrite (a mix of iron and barium) or are neodymium magnets (iron, boron, and neodymium). Magnetic bracelets usually have strength ranging from 300 gauss to 5,000 gauss.

How They're Thought to Work

Magnetic bracelets are believed to do two things: reduce pain and enhance blood flow. Magnets create an electromagnetic field. The idea is that magnets placed against the skin influence the circulation of iron in the blood, which helps deliver nutrients to the joints.

There are three types of magnetic fields: paramagnetic, ferromagnetic, and diamagnetic. Iron in the blood is not ferromagnetic, meaning it's not attracted to magnets, and commercially available magnetic wrist straps will therefore not alter blood flow.

Some holistic healers believe magnetic bracelets can increase levels of endorphins, regulate emotions, slow the progression of disease, and more.

What The Research Shows

Studies have shown that magnetic bracelets don't provide relief for arthritis symptoms. One study that investigated the effect of magnetic bracelets on people with osteoarthritis found no change in pain, stiffness, or physical function among the participants. Another study looked at their effects on people with rheumatoid arthritis, and also found no therapeutic effect on pain, stiffness, or swelling.

In a review of 29 relevant trials, none of them found clear evidence of magnetic bracelets as a cure for pain or a treatment to induce blood flow.

Magnets may interfere with medical devices like pace makers and insulin pumps. In addition, magnets are small and are a risk for children to swallow.

Other Alternative Treatments

There are other forms of alternative treatments that may help with your arthritis pain:

  • Anti-inflammatory diet
  • Herbs including aloe vera, eucalyptus, cat's claw, ginger, and green tea
  • Supplements including fish oil, SAM-e (S-adenosylmethionine), Boswellia Serrata, and capsaicin

However, these alternative therapies should not displace conventional medical treatment. Talk to your healthcare provider before starting any new supplement or dietary regimen.

Lifestyle Measures

In addition to medical treatment, lifestyle changes can also offer relief, including:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Applying a cold pack
  • Exercising
  • Performing stress reduction techniques
  • Sleep hygiene

These lifestyle changes have been proven to support therapeutic treatment and make a difference in symptoms.

A Word From Verywell

It's hard not to try a treatment that has gotten so many positive reviews, but in the case of magnetic bracelets for arthritis pain, the evidence is just not there. They may be attractive because they seem like a quick fix for arthritis symptoms. You deserve relief—find it with legitimate products, services, and lifestyle measures that have a strong scientific support. Consult your healthcare provider about medical and alternative treatments that can actually offer pain relief and improve your symptoms.

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7 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.
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