How Magnetic Therapy Works

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Magnetic therapy is a controversial form of alternative medicine that attempts to use magnetic fields to increase blood flow through dilated blood vessels. Research done by the University of Virginia’s biomedical engineers supports some findings that indicate potential uses for magnetic therapy.

Research findings

University of Virginia researchers have been studying magnetic therapy for years, and early critics of magnetic therapy were of the opinion that the magnets used weren’t generating a strong enough field capable of reaching blood vessels. Now, researchers are finding that magnets with a strength of 70 milliTesla (about 10 times stronger than refrigerator magnets) can actually cause blood vessels to relax and constrict, thus increasing circulation.


When injuries occur they are accompanied by swelling, which occurs during bruising and sprains. When swelling isn’t present, the injury can heal more rapidly and efficiently – which in turn means less pain and more mobility. If used quickly following an injury, magnetic therapy could be used to replace ice packs and compression, and provide more beneficial results – including improved circulation in the affected area.

Placebo effect

Many critics consider the benefits being felt by some who employ magnetic therapy to be nothing more than a placebo effect. They see something tangible being done to treat their injury, then believe – or want to believe – that it is having a positive effect. There is research cited in an article on that argues against the theory of placebo effect for users of magnetic therapy. In double blind tests, where half of the respondents received magnetic therapy and half received a placebo form of therapy, results indicated positive effects from magnet users that weren’t present in those receiving the placebo treatment.


Magnetic therapy is beneficial for athletes because they can be worn on flexible straps or as bracelets. They can be placed to strategically target affected areas without conspicuously interfering with the user’s active lifestyle. And some users experience benefits from sleeping on magnetic mattresses and pillows. This helps relieve pain that some elderly patients feel from lack of motion during the night.


As with any therapy, a patient should consult their doctor prior to starting magnetic treatments. Magnetic therapy should be avoided by expecting mothers, small babies, or patients wearing an insulin pump, pacemaker, or any other implanted device.

Gauss Rating

Magnets are assigned a Gauss rating, which is a measurement of the amount of magnetic energy at the magnet’s core. The higher the Gauss rating, the more potent the magnetic field, and a typical refrigerator magnet will have a Gauss rating of around 200. A mattress pad may have a Gauss rating of around 2500. Magnet size can play a part in magnet therapy’s effectiveness as well. A lower Gauss rating on a larger magnet may be more effective because it covers a larger area and can impact an issue such as swelling more effectively as a result.

Resources:, “How Magnetic Therapy Works”, “How Magnetic Therapy Works – A Natural Pain Reliever”, “Study Finds Magnetic Therapy Really Works”


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