Biomagnetic therapy is a healing practice that uses the application of magnets placed strategically on a person’s body in order to alleviate pain or cure an illness. The practice has been around for centuries and tends to be most popular in Asia and South America, though there are practitioners trained in the use of magnets for health in most places. Proponents often claim that the therapy can bring about wildly successful results, including everything from alleviating sleep disorders to curing cancers. Most classically trained medical doctors do not recommend magnetic therapy as a sole means of treatment, however, and the practice is usually considered an “alternative” form of medicine.
The main idea behind the practice is that the human body is made up of several different energy fields that can become imbalanced. Importantly, human blood is usually about 4% iron, and magnets are believed to attract the iron in the blood. This is said to increase blood flow to certain areas of the body which may bring balance to the body's systems might jump-start its natural ability to heal itself. It is also believed that placing magnets at certain critical places can draw impurities out of the blood and restore health and vital energy.
Magnets are generally used in combination with the reduction of stressful electromagnetic fields, but they can also be used on their own. Patients sometimes wear magnets in jewelry, particularly necklaces and bracelets, and may also sit with magnets balanced on parts of their body during therapy sessions.
Proponents of biomagnetic therapy claim that the practice has many tangible benefits. Some of these include increased oxygen and nutrients carried to the cells, relaxation of muscles, and the reduction of pain due to swelling of muscles and inflammation of joints. Regular treatments are also said to increase bone density, prevent and reversal of chronic disease, help overcome sleep disorders, and provide an overall increase to the body's natural immune system.
The therapy is routinely used as something of a “cure-all.” Practitioners often say that the technique can be tailored for basically any ailment. It’s perhaps most commonly used as a general method of good health and to provide relief from ordinary ailments like headaches and muscle stiffness, but there have been a number of cases where magnet therapy has been used to treat much more serious conditions, including various cancers. The success rate is not widely agreed upon. Many medical experts are skeptical, but proponents often say that the method works even if it hasn’t been widely proved.
Magnets in the form of lodestones were used for healing by ancient cultures in China, Egypt, India, North America, and elsewhere. Scholars often pinpoint 200 BC as the first recorded use; in this year, magnets are said to have been used by a Greek doctor named Galan to treat pain. Queen Cleopatra, during her reign from 69-30 BC, is also said to have worn a magnet in an amulet in an attempt to maintain her beauty. The Swiss physician Paracelsus, who lived from 1493-1541 and who is considered to be one of the founders of modern medicine, believed that magnets could influence the body's life force.
Regulation and Standardization
In the 1800s, Carl Gauss created his system of magnetic units called the gauss. A gauss measurement indicates the strength of a magnet. Using this system, the World Health Organization (WHO) set standards as to what strengths are safe. In the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has classified biomagnetic therapy as "not essentially harmful." This is not exactly an endorsement, but it isn’t a ban, either.
There are a few formal traning programs for people interested in becoming biomagnetic specialists, though the standards for training usually aren’t nearly as rigorous as they are for most other medical arts. Practitioners don’t usually need a license, and they aren’t usually overseen or regulated by any larger body. This isn’t necessarily problematic, but does often mean that treatment may not be consistent from person to person or provider to provider.
As with almost any medical therapy, there are a number of precautions people need to take before beginning. The simple fact that it is alternative and doesn’t depend on medications doesn’t automatically mean that it is safe for everyone. In general, people shouldn’t try to treat themselves unless they’ve undertaken some formal study of the effect of magnetic power on the body. Practitioners can often be found through biomagnetic therapy organizations or local alternative medicine associations.
In addition, magnets should not be used by anyone who has a pacemaker, or near a computer or magnetic data storage devices such as bank and credit cards. Magnetic forces can cause these items to become degaussed, or wiped of information. Some of the stronger magnets can also have a negative impact on flight instrumentation on aircraft, which means that they may not be suitable for use during travel.