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Title: Magnet therapy for arthritis : a fable of attraction?
Author: Richmond, Stewart J.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2750 0523
Awarding Body: University of York
Current Institution: University of York
Date of Award: 2010
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Belief in the healing power of magnets can be traced back to 200AD when magnetic rings were used as cure for arthritis. In the 18th century such beliefs led to the development of the controlled clinical trial. Yet, despite resulting association with charlatanism, magnet therapy is now a multi billion dollar worldwide industry. Magnetic bracelets in particular are widely reported to alleviate the pain and inflammation of arthritis. The central aims of this thesis were to describe the contextual basis for magnet therapy, to review previous research, and to determine whether magnet therapy has any real benefit for people with arthritis. If true the implications would be far reaching. This thesis provides the first systematic review to focus specifically on evidence concerning magnet therapy for arthritis. Findings from previous trials suggest that the practice of wearing permanent magnets has meaningful analgesic effects. However, several of these trials were hampered by methodological problems. Two further randomised controlled crossover trials led by the present author are therefore described. These employed robust methods of controlling for non-specific treatment effects, involving multiple control devices including the novel use of copper bracelets as placebos. Numerous self-reported outcomes were measured. The latest trial also included objective physiological data on inflammation. Findings from these studies demonstrate that magnetic wrist straps, and also copper bracelets, represent ineffective treatment options for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. This research also confirmed that demagnetised control devices do not represent valid placebos, but that weak magnets and copper bracelets may adequately control for the effects of treatment expectancy. Subsequent synthesis of data from these and previous trials using meta-analysis, and addressing problems of blinding, indicates that magnet therapy lacks any specific (i.e. genuine) therapeutic benefit for people with arthritis. This conclusion and its implications for patient education, clinical practice and research are discussed.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available