Magnet Therapy Effective for Chronic Pelvic Pain
Women suffering from chronic pelvic pain (CPP) may be able to reduce their pain and discomfort by applying magnets to specific tender points on the abdomen, according to a new study in American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (2002;187:1581–7). This study suggests that magnets may be an effective, safe treatment for the millions of woman who endure pelvic pain on a daily basis and rely on pain-killing medications.
CPP is a common condition, affecting one in seven women. It accounts for up to 35% of all pelvic surgeries in women and up to 15% of all hysterectomies performed in the United States. While some cases of CPP are due to endometriosis, ovarian cysts, or uterine fibroids, many women with CPP have no known underlying cause. Conventional treatment includes medications such as naproxen (Aleve®), ibuprofen (Advil®), or indomethacin (Indocin®). Muscle-relaxing medications such as cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril®) or carisoprodol (Soma®) may also be prescribed; however, these medications may have adverse side effects when taken for extended lengths of time or may not be well tolerated by some women.
In the new study, 32 women between the ages of 18 and 50 with CPP were randomly assigned to apply two bipolar 500 Gauss magnets or an identical looking “placebo magnet” (a nonmagnetic metal disk) over tender points on their pelvis continuously for two weeks. Nineteen of the women agreed to continue their treatment for an additional two weeks. Measurements of pain quality, pain intensity, pain-related disability, overall illness severity, and improvement were recorded initially and after two and four weeks of treatment.
After four weeks of treatment, women receiving magnet therapy had significantly improved. Pain intensity decreased by 22%, while the quality of pain improved by 40%. Disability scores in women wearing the active magnets also improved by 38%. No benefit in any measurement of pain or disability was observed in those wearing the placebo magnets. No significant benefits were seen in either group after two weeks of treatment, suggesting that the active magnets must be used for at least a month to achieve pain relief. The long-term effects of magnet therapy are unknown.
The mechanism by which magnets exert their pain-relieving effects are not clear. Few studies have been published examining how magnets affect different body functions. Some, but not all, studies have shown that magnet therapy helps relieve other types of chronic pain and fibromyalgia. The authors point out that successful treatment depends on using magnets with proper intensity and polarity. In the studies that showed no benefit with magnets, the intensity of the magnets used was too weak to have any meaningful effect on the body. While more research is necessary to understand how magnets work, they appear to be a safe, effective treatment for women who are seeking a reprieve from their pain.
Darin Ingels, ND, MT (ASCP), received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Dr. Ingels is the author of The Natural Pharmacist: Lowering Cholesterol (Prima, 1999) and Natural Treatments for High Cholesterol (Prima, 2000). He currently is in private practice at New England Family Health Associates located in Southport, CT, where he specializes in environmental medicine and allergies. Dr. Ingels is a regular contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.
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