Looking into treatment options for a wrist injury I can't seem to get rid of, I came across stuff about magnetic therapy, the practice of applying supplementary magnetic fields to the body.
If you believe the hype, it's good for sleep disorders, pain, broken bones and mental illnesses like schizophrenia and depression.
Plus, it treats less serious ills like cellulite - I once bought a pair of magnetic shorts for this purpose, but more for giggles.
The novelty wore off after a day, and they sat in a drawer for the next four years, so I can't tell you if they work or not.
You can get magnetic jewellery, mugs (to magnetize your beverage), mattresses, pillows, even magnetic pet pads. But you have to realize there has actually been very little research into their effectiveness.
One major thing you must know is that people with pacemakers or heart defibrillators should never use magnetic mattress pads.
Also, it's probably a good idea to keep your bank card away from the stuff. Those damn shorts rendered mine useless.
What the experts say "Scientists have discovered that over the last 500 years the earth has lost a lot of its magnetic power. Because of that, according to Japanese research, most humans suffer from magnetic deficiency syndrome. So, just as you take a multivitamin in the morning, you wear magnets. The other benefits are pain relief and a general sense of well-being. Magnets relieve muscle and joint pain in any area of the body. If you have pain in your arm, magnetic bracelets work very well. If you have back pain, a back support works. Magnets improve beauty by increasing circulation. There isn't a condition in the world that isn't helped by improved circulation."
EVA NAVRATIL , Serenity 2000 Magnetic Products, Markham
"There is a lot of anecdotal evidence for the use of magnets for pain but few good studies with strict methodology and double-blind randomized and controlled patients. A lot depends upon how much magnetic field is applied and where it is applied. In my view, just wrapping a body part in a magnet or magnets may not be the correct approach. There could well be a large placebo effect. For instance, people undergoing MRIs are exposed to strong magnetic fields, yet there is no evidence that pain improves. Magnetic stimulation applied to parts of the brain is used to look at brain and motor function and could replace ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) for severe depression. However, this technique has not been well studied to look at pain reduction. This doesn't mean that magnetic fields don't work. We just need more proof. I'd be wary of claims of miracle cures from magnets just now."
ALLAN GORDON , MD, Wasser Pain Management Centre, Mount Sinai Hosptial, Toronto
"Using magnetic stimulation [for depression] increases activity in parts of the brain that have been shown to be underactive. It's applied through a magnetic coil held onto the surface of the head. There is a burgeoning literature indicating that it works. All we're trying to find out now is what's the best intensity, frequency, location and duration. Some people experience headaches, especially if they have pre-existing migraines. These can worsen. Others can experience facial twitching. The greatest concern is a seizure, but we follow certain stimulus parameters to avoid this. For schizophrenics it helps with many things but particularly targets auditory hallucinations."
JEFF DASKALAKIS , MD, assistant professor of psychiatry, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, University of Toronto
"There has been very little peer review research into magnetic healing. Anecdotally it seems that it works for some but not for others, so don't spend a fortune on spec. I have a patient whose headaches went away when she started wearing a cheap magnetic bracelet. It is worth a try and is almost certainly safe. These are small magnetic fields, not like the large fields used for MRIs, and doctors consider those safe. But before you spend thousands on a magnetic mattress, try sticking a strong magnet under the bed."
NORMAN ALLAN , naturopath, Toronto