What can magnets be used for in the medical field?
The study of the effects of magnets and their surrounding magnetic fields on the body has long been recognised by scientists who specifically work in the field of bioelectromagnetics. There are many reported cases of use to aid joint and muscle pain, reduce haematomas and swelling amongst other complaints and ailments.
Is there more than one type of magnetic field?
There are essentially two types of magnetic fields that tend to be used for therapeutic benefit: static and pulsed. The former is often used in shoe inserts, bracelets, joint supports, mattress pads and collars that are placed close to the site of discomfort or problem area.
How do the magnetic fields work?
The magnetic fields generate energy which aims to subtly influence local tissues by encouraging greater blood flow to the area which will in turn bring oxygen and nutrients to the tissues improving the efficiency of the area you are applying the magnets to. Another theory is that the magnetic field increases the threshold and ability of the C-fibres (that transmit pain signals) therefore allowing the body to function more efficiently without the disruption of pain.
What is the difference between pulsed and static magnets?
Pulsed magnets have an electric charge passed through the magnet to create a ‘pulse’ within the magnetic spiralled coil present in the device. It often consists of a unit which supplies the current and a set of wires and an application pad which delivers it to the skin surface.
Is there just one type of pad that is used?
Pads come in different shapes and sizes to suit different locations of treatment and species of animal and include leg wraps and back pads.
Are all machines the same?
Manufacturers’ settings tend to differ slightly, but all aim to target the specific complaint of the animal being treated. Different manufacturing guidelines will recommend different application times and frequency, so it is important to know the device you are using, contact the manufacturer or use the device under a qualified veterinarian or veterinary physiotherapist.
How does it work to help chronic swelling?
When applying PEMF for chronic swelling it is important to activate the pre-capillary sphincters (these allow the blood vessels to open) and allow blood flow to remove the toxins and interstitial fluid that has been sat surrounding a joint or muscle following trauma or injury. This may then indirectly reduce pain as the swelling is no longer present which was previously putting strain on the joint, impeding normal movement and causing discomfort.
How does it work to help fracture repair?
For a fracture settings would be applied that will encourage bone cells to migrate to the area to begin to heal the bone and calcify to increase strength and integrity- which will heal the area quicker.
Are there any contraindications to the use of magnetic fields?
There are several contraindications for the use of magnetic fields in patients who are fitted with a pacemaker as the magnetic field can potentially disrupt the rhythm of the pacemaker, this is relevant both to the pet being treated and the pet owner who may be in close proximity to the animal when application takes place. It is also important not to use it in patients with cancer or those that are pregnant. For this reason, before purchasing any magnetic device for your pet it is best to consult your veterinarian to check that this product is neither unsafe for your pet or you and it may provide the benefits you hope it to.
What evidence is there for the effectiveness of magnetic therapy?
There is a large amount of anecdotal evidence to suggest that magnets successfully influence a range of conditions and complaints in humans and animals, however conclusive clinical trial evidence is limited. Despite this lack of definitive proof, in a survey of the human population 28% of patients with a diagnosis of rheumatoid or osteoarthritis said they used some form of magnetic device. When considering clinical trial evidence, it is important to not completely discount a certain form of therapy that has not produced improvements on one occasion. There are many factors involved in success such as modality settings, subjects/animals used and the frequency of application- all of which, if altered may actually produce significant differences and therefore accept claims that they do improve clinical symptoms.
Why might it be that there are no conclusive results for magnetic therapy?
Lack of conclusive results can be due to several reasons, from the methodological quality of the studies, the various settings often used in devices, non- significant improvements in recovery or the fact that magnetic therapy is often not marketed as a treatment but a preventative, co-existing form of therapy. This means that this type of therapy must be applied along with other lifestyle changes which may include but not be limited to: surgical intervention, weight loss, housing management, physiotherapy and the support of other forms of medication. When managing a dog with a degenerative condition such as arthritis it is important to use a multimodal approach (consider many aspects of their lifestyle) and improve all these a little at a time and you will hopefully see an increase in quality of life and overall wellbeing!
Are there any specific studies about magnetic therapy use?
Unfortunately, there is minimal specific research regarding PEMF and canine arthritis but here is a summary of some main studies in bioelectromagnetics
- Post-operative pain and proprioceptive skills improved with PEMF use (Zidan et al., 2018) this is a very recent and promising study which also found using PEMF before surgery aided surgical outcome. However, this study failed to state a setting used in the trial which somewhat limits the conclusions and future uses of the therapy.
- Static magnets do not affect internal muscle temperature (Sweeney et al., 2001) this can be argued as a positive and a negative outcome, whilst cellular function has been shown to increase with increased temperature prior studies have shown that cells can denature if allowed to reach an unstable level which would then cause damage.
- Review of static magnets for reducing pain (Pittler et al., 2007) this review study did not find conclusive evidence for direct pain relief however recommended further research in to the potential of static magnets to aid symptoms of osteoarthritis.