History of magnets
The UK’s Leading Expert on Magnetic Therapy Goes Head to Head with U.S. Doctors in a Live Radio Showdown About the Validity of Magnetic Therapy, on The Breakfast Show on BBC Radio 5 Live (06.01.06)
Consumer champion and Watchdog presenter Nicky Campbell hosted a heated and gruelling debate about the controversial new report released by the British Medical Journal today. American co author Dr. Flamm argues the validity of magnetic therapy as a treatment for chronic pain with leading magnetic therapy expert Debbie Shimadry.
The new report highlights several old and longstanding issues regarding magnetic therapy, yet according to the UK’s leading magnetic therapy expert the report contains a number of questionable statements that need clarification and further explanation.
When asked what she made of these latest findings she commented that;
“This report contains nothing that I haven’t heard before from the medical fraternity. Quite simply the 2 esteemed gentlemen who wrote this report have merely reviewed much of the research that has been published in recent years and given their own opinion on the results.”
“Their findings are lacking in substance and I question many of their statements. It’s quite clear from reading this editorial that neither Dr. Flamm or Professor Finegold have any training or qualification in magnetic therapy which begs the question as to whether they are eminently qualified to make these statements.”
I must admit, to those without specialised training in magnetic therapy this report does look particularly damning so I asked Debbie Shimadry to explain in detail exactly what issues she has with the doctor’s findings;
1.) Qualified and trained magnetic therapy practitioners do not make such outrageous claims which are highlighted in the report. Magnets are not a cure for anything. They simply provide symptom control, i.e. the reduction of pain and inflammation for people with joint and inflammatory diseases. Incidentally, when you search on Google using the term ‘magnetic healing’, as suggested by the authors, in the first 5 pages of results I found not one single website that made ‘spectacular claims’ such as ‘curing cancer’ or ‘increasing longevity’.
2.) Regarding the ‘controlled’ experiments that are suspect to the blinding process, the most recent trial to which the report refers is the ARC research completed in the UK in December 2004. The discussion notes of this important piece of research did acknowledge that there was a small amount of self reported on blinding, but they also stated that this “did not substantially affect the results”.
The other studies mentioned have been questioned as to their validity for a number of reasons. The main one being that the strength (gauss rating) of the magnets used in the tests was insufficient in that they were less than 800 gauss per magnet, which is the minimum gauss strength required for therapeutic purposes. Secondly, the subjects were only exposed to the magnets for short periods of time, in some cases only 4 – 12 hours per day. Magnets need to be used 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for a number of days or even weeks before a true benefit can be seen.
3.) Dr. Flamm and Professor Finegold suggest that the benefits reported by the hundreds of thousands of magnetic therapy users is merely a placebo effect and actually has no physiological affect what so ever, this remains their strangest argument against magnets. BUT they have chosen to ignore the enormous wealth of research into magnetic therapy and animals. Many pioneering veterinary surgeons across the globe have clinically tested therapeutic magnets on dogs, cats and horses with chronic joint or inflammatory disorders. Dr. Strazza, Dr. Schoen and Dr. Messonnler are just a few of the pioneers of magnetic treatment for animals. Their research showed that animals treated with magnetic therapy alone showed substantial improvements in mobility, joint stability and pain reduction in 60 – 70% of cases. Now of course this can not be a placebo effect, animals are unaware that they are being treated with magnets, so they can not have a preconceived idea that it will aid them. The medical profession chooses to dismiss this pivotal piece of evidence time and time again.
4.) The cost of magnetic devices has also been called into question. The authors claim that they are expensive and will harm the user’s pocket. When you calculate the cost of magnets versus conventional treatments you see that, just as the ARC December 2004 study confirmed, they are very cost effective. A true therapeutic magnet will last for 10 years and average costs range from £15.00 - £250.00 depending on the type of magnet you purchase, that equates to a yearly cost of just £1.50 - £25.00 per year. Compare that with the current prescription charge of £6.50 per drug, and many sufferers take multiple drugs and do not have an exemption from paying, conventional treatment can cost from £6.50 per month or at least £78.00 per year. More than 3 times the price of the most costly magnets.
5.) The author’s final argument is that magnets do not have any influence on the body at all because an MRI scan is safe. This claim to put it simply is ludicrous. A patient is subject to the extremely high strength magnetic field of a MRI scan for a matter of minutes. Therapeutic magnets take a lot longer than a few minutes to have an effect, days or weeks in some cases. Pain relief can not be expected after just a few minutes exposure. The MRI is a diagnostic tool not a treatment and it is not set up to act as either a pulsed or static magnetic therapy device, therefore it can not be expected to produce therapeutic results.
6.) To suggest that people should use a fridge magnet instead of a true therapeutic grade magnet is extremely unwise. A fridge magnet provides between 50 – 200 gauss strength and as previously stated a healing magnet requires a minimum of 800 gauss. Users will feel no benefit at all from a fridge or cheap, weak magnet and it could well prevent them from gaining valuable relief from their pain.
Doctors must remember that approximately 7 million arthritis sufferers in the UK deal with chronic pain on a daily basis. For a large proportion of them they face the fact that conventional medicine has ‘written them off’ and told them that ‘there is nothing more that can be done for them.’ Hundreds of thousands of people spend each and every day in pain, surely they deserve the chance to test every possible treatment in the hope of finding one that works for them. Magnetic therapy does hold benefits and millions of people worldwide will contest to that.
You must bear in mind that the majority of doctors are trained in conventional medicine only and have no knowledge about specialist complementary therapies. Most of them dismiss magnets because they have no knowledge or understanding of the principals behind the therapy. Doctors don’t have the answers to everything and being a gynaecologist does not make you a leading authority on magnets.
There are impartial educational resources available where people can access qualified and trained advice and information about magnetic therapy. Call the national freephone advice line 0800 612 1346.
Debbie Shimadry is a qualified pain nurse
specialist with 13 years NHS experience. She is also a diploma qualified
magnetic therapist who works with the BBC radio network as an expert guest
on magnetic therapy. Her first book about magnetic therapy will be published
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