Reading aloud Magnets can heal and relieve pain, more and more people believe. The market with magnets in cushions, shoe inserts and bandages has developed into a good business with huge profit margins. But the world of science is divided: some consider a healing effect of magnets to be fundamentally possible, but many have doubts. For them, magnetic products are at most expensive placebo. The experiment of the scientists of the Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation Research in Houston (USA) made some skeptics sit up and take notice: The researchers had examined patients suffering from arthritis-like pain as a result of polio. Part of the patients put the magnets on the painful areas, while others got externally identical pads with non-magnetic metals. In the magnet-treated patients, the pain improved significantly more than in the patients who had had a sham treatment. The researchers had created the study as a so-called double-blind study: Not even the care staff knew which magnets were real and which were not.

The study, presented five years ago, was followed by further examinations with pain patients, which came to similar conclusions. Numerous studies, however, could prove no healing effect of magnets. And skeptics keep asking: how can such weak magnetic fields have an effect in the human body, when it is predominantly composed of non-magnetic substances? And why should magnetism affect the sensation of pain?

You do not know it until today. Most likely, many researchers believe that magnetic forces change the ion budget - the turnover of charged particles that move in the cells and blood vessels. This can be the case with metabolic processes, or when signals are transmitted in the nerve tracts. The Lorentz force, which pulls charged particles in a magnetic field out of their direction of motion, then acts on these ions. Thus, magnetic fields could determine the fine processes in the cells.

Scientists have tracked these relationships in an ever-growing body of studies investigating the effects of very weak magnetic fields on animals. It was only during these weeks that Canadian and Italian researchers published a study on pain sensitivity in mice in the renowned journal Proceedings of the Royal Society (B, No. 269, p. 193). The researchers screened the natural magnetic field of the earth with special metal plates. This magnetic field surrounds and penetrates the earth, protects against radiation from space and pulls the compass needle to the north. If the researchers almost eliminated this field, the animals were much more sensitive to pain. To be on the safe side, the scientists repeated the examinations in a second laboratory - the result was the same. Many researchers, however, exclude that such small changes in the magnetic field can have a measurable effect on humans. The World Health Organization's ICNIRP, for example, first sees magnetic flux densities of more than 2 Tesla as the limit - a value forty thousand times greater than the value of the natural magnetic field and still forty times larger than the fields that the users are exposed to by magnetic cushions are. "There is no plausible mechanism of action, " says Rüdiger Matthes from the Federal Office for Radiation Protection in Munich and a member of the expert commission. He is therefore "very, very skeptical", which concerns the benefits of products such as magnetic cushions, blankets or paving. display

With so many unanswered questions, the patient who suffers from chronic pain and now seeks alleviation in a treatment with magnets, at most a pragmatic approach helps: Trying out. This is advised, for example, by Julia Nill, a health consultant at the consumer center in Stuttgart. Although magnetic products are not scientifically recognized, there are many people who still have good experiences with it. She advises you to insist on buying them for a few weeks before deciding to buy expensive products.

Whether the usually extremely expensive blankets, pillows and bandages actually work or not - Almost all studies with pain patients show: Many feel better after a treatment. The placebo effect is just the most reliable.

© science.de

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