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Microsoft word - hweihao_magnetotherapy_suja_article_draft_3Magnetotherapy: Authentic or just an Attraction?
Huang Weihao Caleb
Tutor: Ms Tan Hui Leng, Susan
SP 1202: Communicating with the Academy
In the last two decades, biomagnetic products have been gradually making its mark in the health-care industry. Ranging from small magnetic rings and fanciful magnetic bracelets to king-sized magnetic mattresses, these products have often been highly acclaimed by sales-people in this field to be effective in aiding the healing process of muscular-skeletal ailments, or for the general well-being of humans. When questioned about their effectiveness, it has been repeatedly affirmed that biomagnetic products are developed based on strong scientific research. However, despite the strong claims by ardent proponents, biomagnetic therapy (or magnetotherapy) is still generally regarded with much skepticism by scientists and laypersons alike, even in the 21st century. The truth is, research conducted in the scientific community on this matter have yielded a confusing mash of both positive and negative results since the 1960s. General consumers alike, have been uncertain about the claims and criticisms of this form of alternative medicine. The question on many people’s minds is commonly whether magnetotherapy is out to magnetize the incomes of unsuspecting people, or to authentically provide a superior form of healing that current orthodox Magnetotherapy is no new affair. It has been documented that the Greeks were using magnets for healing since 2,500BC. The Chinese have also been known to use magnets alongside with reflexology and acupuncture as a form of medical treatment back in around 2,000BC. In the west, a book entitled “De Magnet” was published by an English doctor Dr. William Gilbert in the 16th century, showing that work in this area had already begun back in the late middle ages. With such extensive history on magnetotherapy, one might easily be puzzled as to why it still remains a topic of Compared to the primitive methods of the olden days where lodestones (a natural stone or rock with magnetic properties) were used for therapeutic purposes, the prevailing practice today uses various types and forms of magnets with varying strengths to achieve the same purpose. Magnets used in magnetotherapy today are differentiated into electromagnets and static magnets, with the latter being more prevalent in magnetic consumer products. Static magnets are magnets that have a permanent magnetic field, while electromagnets generate magnetic fields only when electric currents flow through them. Electromagnets can be pulsed by turning on and off the magnetic field very rapidly, creating a Pulsed Electromagenetic Field. (PEMF) The strength of magnets also varies. As a general guideline, refrigerator magnets are in the range of 35 – 200 gauss (G), while those marketed for pain relief are usually 300 – 5,000 G, with 300 G being the most common in static magnetic Modern society have witnessed people who subscribe wholeheartedly to magnetotherapy despite its current status as a pseudoscience. The primary reasons why some people use magnetotherapy is because magnet therapy is a much safer alternative method of healing compared to the consumption of drugs. This is attributed to the extremely few reported side effects of magnetotherapy to date. Also, some clinical research that have already been conducted appears to support the legitimacy that magnetotherapy is effective in pain relief.. In the recent scare in the United States in 2005 involving painkillers Vioxx, Bextra and Celebrex, such drugs were ascertained by the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be linked to the increased risk of heart attacks and potential life-threatening gastrointestinal bleeding associated with their consumption. This may have also contributed to the escalating number of the people turning to magnet therapy for pain relief. Besides having little or no side effects, magnet therapy only treats a single localized area. This is unlike administering drugs, where chemicals may affect other parts of the body via the blood stream, thereby resulting in side effects. Magnetotherapy and its Social Impact
The magnetic therapy industry has flourished exponentially in recent years. A study in 2003 reported that the amount of money spent on magneto-therapeutic products have reached a staggering estimate of US$5 billion worldwide, with US$500 million in the U.S. alone. This colossal amount (for a pseudoscientific claim) calls for a deeper inquiry into the science behind magnetotherapy. The U.S. FDA currently does not approve any significant medical claims made by biomagnetic companies (eg. Treatment of cancer, arthritis etc.), and warrants automatic detention of biomagnetic product imports, which are deemed as “fraudulent and deceptive medical devices”. Despite such an explicit stand by health authorities, consumers are still displaying unwavering faith in magnetotherapy. As probable buyers of magnetic products, we need to closely examine the claims of both proponents and opponents in this field. Current subscribers ought to take a step back and scrutinize the claims put forth by proponents in the light of scientific findings. Magnetotherapy if scientifically proven, may serve as a potent therapeutic aid, thereby contributing greater benefits to the medical community and society. If however proven to be a hoax, consumers must be duly warned. Therefore, there is also a dire need to fuel and carry out more research to validate and expand the current database, as current findings are still generally labelled as preliminary and inconclusive. However, this may be challenging as the history of magnetotherapy has been littered with fraud and hype, resulting in much of the skepticism today. Dubious or Unproven Scientific Claims in Magnetotherapy
There are several scientific claims by proponents regarding magnetotherapy which may be presented to consumers during the marketing process of biomagnetic goods. However, not all of these assertions are regarded with general consensus by the majority of scientists. In fact, some of them have been criticised to come from isolated sources, without sufficient proof that the treatment actually works. Some are clearly erroneous and fallible. This can be very dangerous as unsubstantiated and unconfirmed findings may mislead patients, causing them to forgo necessary and appropriate treatments. It is therefore important for consumers to assume a guarded stance against dubious claims and to consult a reputable healthcare professional before determining if magnetotherapy is a suitable treatment for one’s illness. Here, we will closely examine some of the more popular claims brought forth by proponents: 1) Magnetotherapy increases blood flow; 2) The Magnetic Field Deficiency Syndrome; 3) Magnetotherapy and the treatment of cancer; 4) Magnetic Field and Blood Flow
One of the main reasons why magnetotherapy aids in healing is because it supposedly increases blood circulation. Increased blood flow to the wound or hurting area means that there is an increased supply of nutrients to the affected region, together with the faster removal of waste products. Such increase in efficiency would then facilitate faster healing. Various studies done on both animals and humans to investigate the effects of magnetic field on blood circulation have yielded mixed results. One particular study which studied the effects of a biomagnetic pad on the flow of aqueous saline solution and distilled water showed that the pad affected the saline flow, not the distilled water. Although the mechanism for the increase in saline flow was not evident, it was not due to the dilatory effect on the walls of the glass capillary tube. Many manufacturers of static magnetic devices have cited this piece of work as evidence that magnetic therapy can potentially affect blood circulation. However, the investigator who performed this experiment apparently also concluded that the results should not be extrapolated to effects that would be expected with flowing blood. Besides this piece of work, there are several other studies which have failed to find effects on blood circulation. At the current moment, one of the plausible theories proposed on how magnetic field can affect blood flow is blood vessel dilation. This, however, is still open to criticism and only further A huge misconception regarding magnets and blood flow that has been circulating around involves the action of a magnetic field on the iron present in blood. In this theory, the proposition is that because haemoglobin in blood contains iron, and because magnets can attract iron, the iron in the blood (in the form of a charged ion) can be attracted by a magnetic field. This would create heat and in return, increase blood flow. This nevertheless, is absolutely untrue as the iron in blood is not ferromagnetic. Ferromagnetic materials get attracted by magnets because of the concerted behaviour of many magnetic atoms acting together. The iron present in blood however exists as isolated atoms within large haemoglobin molecules. This makes it impossible for a magnetic field to act on these iron atoms. The Magnetic Field Deficiency Syndrome
The Magnetic Field Deficiency Syndrome was first coined by Dr. Kyoichi Nakagawa, M.D of Isuzu hospital in Tokyo, Japan in 1976. In his theory, he proposed that the human body is under the influence of the Earth’s magnetic field, and that this magnetic field is vital in maintaining the overall balance in the body. Since the earth’s magnetic field has been decreasing in strength over the years, Dr. Nakagawa suggests that the lack of magnetism has caused some abnormalities in the body, which includes “stiffness” of the shoulders, back and neck, heaviness of the head, dizziness and insomnia for no apparent reason. This, he proposes can be treated by introducing an external application of a magnetic field to supplement the lack of magnetic field, which can then improve the conditions of these symptoms. In addition to the decreasing strength of the earth’s magnetic field, the cities we live in today are being crowded with iron and steel structures. These, he claims, can absorb a large part of the magnetic lines of the earth’s field, thus depriving us from the much required magnetic field. The conclusion of his hypothesis was reached after he cited studies that have observed alleviation of the above mentioned symptoms after the introduction of magnetotherapy, and after drawing relationships between the human body and This theory has been cited widely by companies when marketing products such as magnetic pillows and mattresses despite it being controversial at large. There could be a possibility that the decreasing earth’s magnetic field has affected the wellbeing of human beings. Nonetheless, even Dr. Nakagawa himself concluded in his paper that he is well aware that further research is needed to be done to confirm the magnetic field syndrome. He suggests observing a human being who is left in a test room shielded from all magnetic fields but living in the same conditions as other people in the real world. The person should then be examined for any magnetic deficiency symptoms to conclude this claim. Further doubt may be cast on Dr. Nakagawa’s theory when we consider the nature of the geographical structure and intensity of the earth’s magnetic field, which is known to be slowly and erratically changing. It is interesting to note that the intensity of the magnetic field on the globe is not the same in all geographical areas, as shown in Fig. 1. For example, there is quite a substantial difference in the magnetic field intensity in Canada compared to some parts of Brazil. This being the case, and according to Dr. Nakagawa’s theory, the people in Brazil experiencing lower magnetic field intensities should manifest more of the magnetic field deficiency symptoms compared to the people living in Canada. This, however, is yet to be Fig. 1: Variations in the Earth’s magnetic field as shown on the geographical
Magnetotherapy and the Treatment of Cancer
Evidently, the U.S. FDA passed a law forbidding companies marketing biomagnetic products from issuing any significant medical claims on their products. This includes the use of magnetotherapy for the treatment of cancer. Before the enforcement of this law, there were companies and people claiming magnetotherapy can be used to treat cancer. Such claims could mislead some cancer patients into substituting the necessary medical treatment for magnetotherapy, which may result in fatal incidents. As quoted by the American Cancer Society (ACS): “The ACS advocates for peer-reviewed scientific evidence of the safety and efficacy of these (complementary and alternative) methods. All cancer interventions must withstand the scrutiny of peer-reviewed scientific evaluation before they can be recommended for the prevention, diagnosis, or treatment of cancer.” Just like how a newly designed drug must undergo many years of intense clinical trials and analysis before it can be released to the general public, magnetotherapy as a form of treatment of cancer must likewise first be endorsed by health authorities before being advocated. To publicise and praise positive pilot studies out of proportion and then make strong claims on them is extremely irresponsible and blatantly unsound. Fortunately, appropriate laws today have established firm guidelines, protecting consumers from fraudulent claims. Consumers on their part nonetheless must remain vigilant, and realise that magnetotherapy is still not considered a legitimate therapy for the treatment of cancer. Magnetotherapy and Pain Relief
Magnetotherapy is often synonymously linked with pain relief. Besides the clinical studies that have highlighted some positive results on pain relief, there are also numerous testimonials given by consumers, testifying that the use of static magnets can relief pain. Although no scientific mechanisms have yet been confirmed on how magnetic field can influence pain, the fact that there are positive results shown may mean that there is value in furthering the study of magnetotherapy in this particular area. On the other hand, critics have often criticised some of the existing studies to be poorly designed and executed, using only a small number of participants and conducted over short durations. Some have argued that a placebo effect could be the underlying reason for the disappearance or diminishing of pain in test subjects, while others have come to a conclusion that more scientifically sound studies have to be conducted. This would enable us to understand better the effects of magnets on the body, together with the possible benefits that could result While criticising such existing studies, one must also be fair to admit that testing magnets in clinical trials has presented numerous challenges. For example, the subject of pain is difficult to study because of its subjective nature, and it being difficult to quantify. Also, the design of appropriate placebos may be one of the most significant problems. Using well designed placebos in such studies is of paramount importance. For a clinical study to be valid, it must be carried out with double-blinding. Double-blinding prevents the influence of any observer biasness or placebo effect on the research outcome. In the study of magnets on patients, patients can easily determine if the magnet he is given is a genuine or counterfeit magnet, simply by testing it with an iron or steel object. Therefore, more research should be encouraged not only in the study of the effects of magnetic fields on pain, but also in the proposal of continual improvements in the designs for such experiments. Pulsed Electromagnetic Field (PEMF) Therapy
Whilst much emphasis has been placed on the use of static magnets in therapeutic magnetic products, it is also important to note that there is another form of magnetotherapy involving the use of time-varying electromagnetic fields, known as PEMF. PEMF has been used as therapeutic agents over the last 40 years, following convincing evidence that electric currents can accelerate bone formation. However, it is only used to improve the healing of some fractures, as it is not as effective compared to approaches like bone grafting. Several writers have concluded that studies on PEMF therapy have yielded more promising results compared to therapies involving the use of static magnets in the area of pain relief and healing, indicating that research conducted on PEMF therapy has indeed displayed a greater percentage of positive results. As such, there could be a greater possibility that PEMF can impact the human body much more compared to static magnetic therapy. But as of the present, PEMF therapy for other medical uses besides its use for the acceleration of bone formation, still remains largely inconclusive, as with static magnetic therapy. Conclusion and The Future of Magnetotherapy
In concluding the case of magnetotherapy, it is important to know that its gradual emergence in our healthcare industry calls for greater concern from society. For every research that has been published providing promising and optimistic results, it has been noted to be matched by another that contradicts the latter. This swashbuckling battle between proponents and skeptics in the field of magnetotherapy has indeed left many clueless and paradoxical as to what the truth is exactly. In fact, the myriad of different scientific evidence presented to our community today will confound a layperson even more, instead of directing one in the right direction. Such a situation on top of the potential benefits magnetotherapy has shown from pilot studies warrants attention from both researchers and health authorities. Further research should be encouraged, and preliminary results to date should not be left to waste. But in light of the very nature of bioelectromagnetic research, where there is a high inability to reproduce and replicate work conducted in different laboratories, the road ahead may indeed prove to be a formidable challenge. For the time being, it is safe to say that following the regulations and advice from health authorities will do no harm, and perhaps even protect citizens from unfulfilled expectations and unnecessary financial losses. This would be a reasonable stand, considering that the general consensus of the medical society still regards magnetotherapy as an unproven form of medical therapy. Also as examined above, there are several assertions by proponents that consumers should seriously consider before purchasing biomagnetic products, namely magnetotherapy and its effectiveness on the influence on blood flow, the general well-being of humans, cancer and pain relief. Knowing the arguments discussed in the above paper would certainly help one to make a more informed decision. However since there are no definite conclusions yet, magnetotherapy would still be considered dubious, until proven otherwise. As for the loyal subscribers of magnetotherapy, one however cannot totally fault them for being naïve as there are indeed evidences pointing towards effectiveness in magnetotherapy. Nonetheless, it would be wise for them to keep magnetotherapy where it should be at the moment – as a complementary form of medicine and no more than that. Given our current situation, magnetotherapy perhaps will remain as a hope for the hopeful, a lie in the eyes of the doubtful, and possibly References
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LG_2612-019_019-FMC_Mise en page 1 05/09/12 14:10 Page19Cardio-vasculaire L'ANSM et la HAS viennent de publier des recommandations sur les indications des agents anti-plaquettaires. Zoom sur leur usage dans l’athérome. AGENTS ANTI-PLAQUETTAIRES ET MALADIE ATHÉROMATEUSE Synthèse du Dr Pascale Naudin-Rousselle (rédactrice, firstname.lastname@example.org) En prévention primaire vasculaire préc