Trial raises doubts over alternative pain therapy for arthritis

Oct 16, 2009

Copper bracelets and magnetic wrist straps are ineffective in relieving arthritis pain, according to a new study led by a University of York academic.

Researchers conducted the first randomised placebo-controlled trial on the use of both copper bracelets and magnetic wrist straps for in -- the most common form of the condition.

The devices are used worldwide for helping to manage pain associated with chronic musculoskeletal disorders. The results of this trial conflict with those from previous studies, by showing that both magnetic and copper bracelets were ineffective for managing pain, stiffness and physical function in osteoarthritis. The research is published in the latest issue of the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine.

The trial was led by Stewart Richmond, a Research Fellow in the Department of Health Sciences at the University of York, who said: "This is the first randomised controlled trial to indicate that copper bracelets are ineffective for relieving pain."

"It appears that any perceived benefit obtained from wearing a magnetic or copper bracelet can be attributed to psychological placebo effects. People tend to buy them when they are in a lot of pain, then when the pain eases off over time they attribute this to the device. However, our findings suggest that such devices have no real advantage over placebo wrist straps that are not magnetic and do not contain copper.

"Although their use is generally harmless, people with osteoarthritis should be especially cautious about spending large sums of money on magnet therapy. Magnets removed from disused speakers are much cheaper, but you would first have to believe that they could work."

The trial involved 45 people aged 50 or over, who were all diagnosed as suffering from osteoarthritis. Each participant wore four devices in a random order over a 16-week period - two wrist straps with differing levels of magnetism, a demagnetised wrist strap and a copper bracelet.

The study revealed no meaningful difference between the devices in terms of their effects on , stiffness and physical function.

Magnet therapy is a rapidly growing industry, with annual worldwide sales of therapeutic devices incorporating permanent magnets worth up to $4 billion US.

The trial also involved researchers from the universities of Hull, Durham, and the NHS.

Source: University of York

Explore further: Making old lungs look young again: Animal research suggests ibuprofen can reduce lung inflammation in elderly

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Bracelet maker accused of false claims

Aug 23, 2006

The manufacturer of the "ionized" Q-Ray bracelet has been accused in Chicago of false advertising for claiming the product acts as a pain reliever.

The 'placebo effect' is studied

Nov 22, 2005

University of Michigan researchers say they are investigating the "placebo effect," in which pills with no medicinal value work in some people.

Drug-free treatments offer hope for older people in pain

Sep 10, 2007

Mind-body therapies, which focus on the interactions between the mind, body and behavior, and the ways in which emotional, mental, social and behavioral factors can affect health, may be of particular benefit to elderly chronic ...

Aggressive nature of hand osteoarthritis

Jun 14, 2007

In just two years, patients with hand osteoarthritis (OA) experienced a significant increase in pain and functional limitations, according to new data presented today at EULAR 2007, the Annual European Congress of Rheumatology ...

Medicinal marijuana effective for neuropathic pain in HIV

Aug 06, 2008

In a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial to assess the impact of smoked medical cannabis, or marijuana, on the neuropathic pain associated with HIV, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School ...

Recommended for you

User comments : 0