How Medical Magnet Therapy Works for Pain Management

a woman getting magnet therapy

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Alternative practitioners have long said that medical magnets have healing power, and some studies suggest that they may be right.

More Effective Than Sham Magnets

In a study published in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, researchers at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston found magnets to be more effective than sham magnets at blocking pain caused by post-polio syndrome.

This syndrome, marked by leg pain, affects up to 20% of polio sufferers later in life. In the controlled study, 76% of patients treated with a magnet got pain relief. Only 18% treated with a sham magnet got relief.

Growing Evidence Suggests Magnet Therapy Works

In other studies, magnets have proven effective.

  • Researchers at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston showed that magnets help relieve muscle pain caused by this mysterious condition. In the study, patients who slept on magnetic mattresses experienced greater pain relief than patients who slept on ordinary mattresses.
  • In research conducted at New York Medical College ​of Valhalla, magnetic foot pads were more effective than non-magnetic foot pads at relieving numbness, tingling, and pain associated with this diabetes-related problem. Evidence suggests that roughly 80% of chronic pain sufferers could benefit from magnetic therapy.​

How Magnets Relieve Pain

When held against the skin, magnets relax capillary walls, thereby boosting blood flow to the painful area. They also help prevent the muscle spasms that underlie many forms of pain, by interfering with muscle contractions.

They also interfere with the electrochemical reactions that take place within nerve cells, impeding their ability to transmit pain messages to the brain. Chronic pain can be controlled with aspirin and other over-the-counter and prescription painkillers. However, unlike pain medications, magnets do not carry any risk of side effects.

Selecting and Measuring Medical Magnets

Medical magnets come in a dizzying range of shapes, sizes, and strengths. They range in price from about five dollars all the way to 900 dollars.

It is usually best to start with one or more coin-shaped magnets made of the rare earth metal neodymium-boron. For most applications, these neo magnets work just as well and cost less than other magnets.

Magnetism is measured in gauss. A typical refrigerator magnet is about 10 gauss. That is too weak to penetrate the skin and unlikely to be helpful for anything more than a minor bruise. Medical magnets range in strength from 450 gausses to 10,000 gausses. The higher the gauss, the better the pain relief.

Putting Magnets to Work

The magnet should be affixed to the skin directly over the painful area. Some people use ordinary adhesive bandages to affix the magnets. Transpore, a paper tape made by 3M, works better. It holds well, and it doesn't pull the hairs from the skin when it is removed.

If the magnet fails to provide relief within a few days, reposition the magnet over the nearest acupuncture point. To locate these points on the body, consult a book on acupuncture. If repositioning the magnet fails to bring relief within 30 days, odds are it's not going to work. Switch to another type of magnet or speak with your doctor about using a pain-killing medication or another conventional approach.

Pain Relief Using Magnets

  1. Aching Feet: Magnetic insoles can relieve foot pain and the achy feelings in the legs after you've been standing all day.
  2. Arthritis: If the pain is limited to your fingers, a neo magnet taped to the affected joint should do the trick. Or, you can wear a magnetic wrist band.
  3. Back Pain: Place four magnets about 1.5" on either side of the spine, two per side. If applying and removing several magnets proves troublesome, use a three to four-inch ceramic strip magnet or a magnetic back brace.
  4. Headache: Tape magnets to your temples or to the back of your head, just above the neck. Or, use a magnetic headband.
  5. Tennis Elbow: Use a magnetic band around the elbow. The same band also relieves hand and arm pain caused by repetitive strain injury.


  • “Archives of PM&R.” ACRM,
  • Lawrence, Ronald Melvin, "Controlling Chronic Pain With Magnets," "Magnetic Insoles," Magnet Therapy: The Pain Cure Alternative. Prima Health, 1998.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.