Real science logo by Douglas Blane



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University of Durham. Eurekalert. 24-Sep-2007 16:30 Eastern US Time


Do static magnets reduce pain?

Static magnets are widely marketed to relieve pain.


A recent survey showed that almost a third of people with certain painful illnesses use magnets or copper bracelets to try to reduce the pain. These illnesses were rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia.


But is there any evidence that magnets do help to reduce pain?


In the latest issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, scientists report the findings of a study into magnets for pain relief: Do they actually work, they wanted to know.


The scientists are in the complementary medicine unit of the Peninsula Medical School at the Universities of Exeter & Plymouth


Dr. Max H. Pittler and his colleagues carried out a meta-analysis of nine randomized trials. All of these had used a visual analogue scale to allow patients to report the difference between static magnets and a placebo.


The researchers found no effect of the magnets on pain scores. They conclude that the evidence does not support the use of static magnets for pain relief. Magnets cannot be recommended as a treatment.


The scientists did find that though that more study is needed into a possible benefit to people with osteoarthritis.



More help with words





What's it all about?


  1. What do the companies that sell static magnets claim they can do?
  2. What proportion of people with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis or fibromyalgia use magnets to ease their pain?
  3. Where was this latest study published?
  4. Where do the scientists that carried out the study work?
  5. What was the aim of the study?
  6. Did these scientists actually carry out a trial of the effects of magnets on pain?
  7. What did they do?
  8. What was the outcome of their study?
  9. What further work did the scientists say was still needed?
  10. This is a very brief report that was written by a press officer – a person whose job it is to give out science news. Press releases do not not tell the whole story. Can you think of one question this story does not answer that is likely to be answered in the complete paper written by the scientists?

Learning and teaching resources

There is a good set of classroom resources and activities on alternative medicine at Science for Public Understanding.


These include teacher notes and student worksheets for discussions, evaluating evidence, constructing arguments and exploring the placebo effect.

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