Magnets have been used for centuries to help heal the body, and there are many effective forms of magnetic therapy still used today.
This guide explores how magnets can be used to improve your mental and physical health, including the various types of magnet therapy that are used today as well as what medical researchers can tell us about the effectiveness of various treatments.
The most common form of magnetic therapy used today is a combination of magnets and electricity known as pulsed electromagnetic field therapy, which has many essential benefits for your health.
The Types of Magnetic Therapy
Your body has its own, natural magnetic and electrical fields, and all the molecules in your body have some small amount of magnetic energy contained within them.
The logic behind using magnets to heal the body is that these natural energy and magnetic fields can become disrupted our unbalanced, leading to health problems, and using magnets can help restore equilibrium.
Putting a magnetic field near the body, it is believed, can restore your natural function.
An example of this power is if you look at ions within your system.
Your body needs ions in minerals like potassium and calcium to send signals to the various cells and systems in your body.
Using magnets can influence the ions in these minerals, which means they could control the sending of important messages throughout your body.
Most magnetic field therapy used today is for treating pain and relieving various sources of inflammation in the body, but we are continually learning of new applications for this technology.
The most widely studied use of magnetic field therapy, as well as static magnets, includes in the treating of arthritis, healing wounds, treating headache and fibromyalgia pain, and sleep disorders.
There are two main types of magnetic therapy used today, and we will explore these in-depth below.
Static Magnetic Field Therapy
This form of magnetic therapy involves the use of magnets touching your skin.
Static refers to the fact that the magnet remains in place.
In static treatment, you could have a magnet inside of jewelry or in your shoe.
Some people sleep on magnets or use them inside of special braces or holders that keep them in place while you sleep or go about your day.
Static magnetic therapy works because, while the magnet remains in one place, your blood is continuously flowing beneath the skin, moving it past this point.
Your blood serves to move ions underneath the magnet and then carry them on to other parts of your body.
This form of magnetic field therapy is among the oldest on record.
One of the earliest methods was to place magnets alone the same sites where acupuncture was performed to open energy channels and influence the pathways of chi throughout the body.
Magnetic strength can be measured is Gauss units, and static magnets usually have an intensity somewhere between 200 and 1,200 Gauss.
Electrically Charged Magnetic Therapy
In this form of magnetic therapy, the magnets are given an electrical charge and then placed near the body, usually using a pulsed delivery system.
A common form of this type of therapy is Pulsed Electromagnetic Field (PEMF) therapy.
This type of magnetic treatment has been approved for use by the FDA for several decades and is commonly used to treat pain, inflammation, and soft tissue damage.
PEMF and other forms of electromagnetic therapy are often used by orthopedic physicians and physical therapists because of its effectiveness at treating problems of the skeletomuscular system.
It has proven effective at improving healing of damaged tissues and reducing pain associated with injury, nerve damage, and chronic inflammation.
PEMF devices deliver pulses of electromagnetic energy in pulses that are low in intensity and frequency.
The pulses are usually short bursts. PEMF therapy results vary by the strength of the pulsed field, the type of wavelength used, and the frequency of the signal produced.
PEMF is useful because if naturally replenishes the energy level of your cells, targeting the mitochondria, which are the organelles inside every cell that produce energy.
PEMF devices that are calibrated to correct lower frequencies emit energy that is the same as those used by your cells, and these pulsed waves can act as a battery charger for your cells.
Once your cells have enough energy, they can perform their necessary functions and repair damaged tissues.
When your cells have proper energy levels, they are more likely to remain healthy and to bounce back from injury or illness.
Health Benefits of Magnetic Therapy
Researchers have been investigating the effects of various forms of magnetic therapy for several decades now.
Not only have we learned much from cell and animal studies but also from clinical trials on patients with various types of disorders and conditions.
Today, our understanding of the mental and physical benefits of distinct types of magnetic therapy is vast, and below we outline the most significant of these findings from the medical research.
One of the earliest applications for pulsed electromagnetic field therapy was in the healing of bone fractures.
Sometimes, when someone breaks a bone, the fracture site fails to heal correctly or reform into a single bone, and this is known as a nonunion fracture.
When this occurs, you may have pain and chronic weakness in the area or lose function.
Magnetic therapy is effective at stimulating this damaged tissue and encouraging the union of these types of fractures, leading to full healing in many patients.
Early research in this area from Bangladesh showed this benefit, and numerous studies since that time have confirmed the ability of PEMF to help heal nonunion fractures more quickly and with a higher success rate (1).
Treatment of Arthritis
Many magnetic devices and tools are marketed to those with several types of arthritis, as this degenerative condition can cause chronic pain, loss of mobility, and a reduction in the quality of life.
According to a 2006 study, PEMF helps treat osteoarthritis or OA (2).
In this trial, patients with cervical OA used a mat that delivered PEMF pulses for 30 minutes twice a day for three weeks.
Not only did the patients see a reduction in their pain levels, but they also reported improvements in their range of motion and their functional capacity.
Their improvements also included a decrease in muscle spasms, which can cause pain and other problems, as well.
In other studies, magnetic therapy has been shown also to help treat rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune disease that is chronic and degenerative.
Those with this disease often experience chronic pain and may lose function in their affected limbs.
PEMF not only helps reduce the pain and stiffness associated with this disease, but it does so without any adverse effects, according to a 1998 study from India (3).
Your cells all need sufficient oxygen and nutrients to perform their necessary and vital functions that keep you healthy and strong.
Blood flow is, therefore, essential to cell health.
When you improve blood flow, you enhance metabolic process and help to heal tissues and prevent disease.
Improvement in circulation, then, can support your overall health and well-being, and magnetic therapy can assist in this area.
According to a 2004 study in the Journal of Orthopedic Research, pulsed magnetic therapy is excellent for improving blood flow (4).
The use of PEMF has been shown to enhance vasodilation, which leads to improved circulation.
In animal studies, this type of magnetic therapy was shown to increase the width of arteriolar microvessels, thus allowing more blood to flow to the treated area.
Over time, better circulation can lead to faster healing, less tissue damage, and lower levels of inflammation.
Faster Cell Regeneration
When your body is trying to recover from injury or illness or fight disease, it is imperative that it has the capacity to regenerate new cells while also repairing damaged ones.
Cell regeneration is also a crucial part of the aging process.
If you want to improve your cells’ ability to pair and rejuvenate damaged or weakened cells, then you can use magnetic therapy to help.
For example, an early study on the application of pulsed magnetic therapy on soft-tissue damage showed that using PEMF treatment on wounds leads to faster healing and less scarring (5).
More recent research in this same area confirmed these earlier results, showing that pulsed magnetic waves help patients heal from surgery (6).
Faster healing means people can return to their normal lives quicker, experience less pain, and have fewer complications from surgery.
It is believed that PEMF therapy works by not only increasing blood circulation to the area but also boosting your cells’ natural ability to repair and rejuvenate.
Living with chronic pain not only affects the body, but it also has serious and sometimes permanent psychological symptoms, as well.
While pain can be treated with medications, many times these are ineffective at addressing the cause of the symptoms, and most pain medications have a risk of dependency associated with long-term use, which means they cannot be used for treating chronic conditions.
Since 1999, we have known that PEMF therapy has been an effective way to reduce certain types of pain, including back pain, a leading type of chronic pain in Americans (7).
In this study, patients with pelvic pain were treated with pulsed magnetic therapy for a brief time and experienced significant reductions in pain while reported improved psychological outcomes, as well.
Treatment for Tendonitis
When you have chronic inflammation in areas where tendons meet bone, you have a condition known as tendonitis.
This inflammation is a result of your body’s normal response to damage or dysfunction, but when it lasts a long time, it can cause further damage as well as pain and loss of function.
Chronic inflammation leads to a draining of the electrical charge in the cells surrounding the inflamed area.
Magnetic therapy can help to restore that natural electrical changer, which can lead to a reduction in inflammation (8).
In a 1997 study from Hong Kong, researchers found that using pulsed electromagnetic fields can reduce inflammation and help heal tendinitis (9).
Injured tendons were treated with 15 minutes per day of PEMF therapy and compared to a control group.
Those treated with magnetic therapy had less inflammation and more physiological alignment of their collagen fibers, which means the tendons were healing and returning to normal.
Treated tendons also had less swelling and recovered faster than those that were untreated.
Reduced Migraine Symptoms
Not all headaches are created equal, and migraine headaches can often be particularly challenging to treat.
Not only does a migraine cause pain but it also often includes sensory perception problems and can interfere with your ability to lead a healthy life.
Researchers in a 1999 study found that PEMF therapy could help successfully treat migraines in some patients (10).
When treated for 60 days, the patients had fewer migraine headaches, and those they had were less intense and lasted a shorter amount of time.
Treatment for Nerve Damage
Nerve damage can lead to chronic pain as well as a loss of function in extremities, and this condition can often be challenging to treat.
Many nerve endings do not respond to conventional treatment, but magnetic therapy has been shown to be effective in some cases (11).
Sciatic nerve pain in the lower back, hip, and leg is a frequent problem, and PEMF therapy has been known to help treat this condition, resulting in less pain and improved function in those with nerve damage in this area.
Diabetic polyneuropathy is a type of nerve damage caused by diabetes.
This results from chronically elevated insulin levels and is a common side effect of Type 1 and 2 diabetes.
In a 2013 study, magnetic therapy in the form of PEMF treatment helps to relieve polyneuropathy pain (12).
121 patients were treated with PEMF therapy and results showed improvement in spinal motor neural function as well as improved stimulation of the peripheral nerves.
Treatment for Mental Health Issues
Mental illness, like depression, is a severe health condition that affects your physical as well as psychological well-being.
Depression not only has symptoms that affect your outlook and mood, but it also can cause physical symptoms, as well.
A 2000 research study from Russia shared promising results of the effects of magnetic therapy on depression (13).
Low-frequency pulses of electromagnetic waves improved the emotional state and motor activity of subjects.
This is good news for those who suffer from depression, as medications often incur serious side effects that can affect quality of life.
Stress is a part of life, but chronic or elevated levels of stress can have harmful effects on your body.
When you are under stress, your body releases stress hormones that help you cope with this pressure, and when these hormones are present for extended periods, it can cause you to become ill.
Stress hormones suppress your immune system, can lead to depression and anxiety, and cause you to feel fatigues.
Chronic stress contributes to oxidative stress at the cellular level, which leads to heart disease, metabolic disorders, and many other chronic conditions.
Use of pulsed magnetic therapy can help reduce your cells’ response to stress hormones, thus lowering their negative influence on your health.
By increasing your cells’ energy levels and boosting your immune system function more fully, PEMF can improve your stress response and allow you to feel better even when you are under stress.
For those with sleep problems, magnetic therapy may be able to help.
Pulse magnetic therapy, in particular, can improve your sleep patterns, which can allow you to get a better night’s rest.
PEMF devices can be used to stimulate the hypothalamus, which is responsible for regulating your natural sleep-wake cycle.
Using a PEMF device before bed or sleeping on a PEMF mat can help regulate your circadian rhythms and improve your sleep quality as well as how long you are able to stay asleep.
Those who use PEMF therapy regularly report feeling more relaxed and able to fall asleep easier, and this type of magnetic therapy prepares you for not only REM sleep but also slow-wave sleep, which is crucial to your overall sleep quality.
PEMF can be used to relax your muscles and reduce stress, which allows your mind to drift off more quickly, improving your sleep.
By lowering levels of stress hormones and enhancing your natural response to sleep, magnetic therapy could become an essential part of your sleep routine, especially if you have a sleep disorder.
Enhanced Athletic Performance
Athletes and those wanting to build muscles or improve their physical performance can also benefit from magnetic therapy.
Those who extensively use PEMF treatments can enjoy the benefits of improved cellular regeneration, which means your muscles grow faster and can recover better after strenuous activity.
Athletes who use pulsed magnetic therapy report quicker recovery periods and fewer injuries, as well.
When you use PEMF devices on your body, it enhances the natural process of myosin phosphorylation, which is when your muscles create energy.
This means you can have more power for training or competitions.
Pulsed magnetic treatments also help your cells absorb oxygen, ions, and electrolytes more easily.
Improved blood flow from magnetic therapy also allows tissues to repair themselves more efficiently while also encouraging less soreness and inflammation after a workout.
Protection from Aging
Aging causes the natural electrical system that your cells use to communicate with one another begins to dysfunction or even fail.
When your cells no longer communicate effectively with one another, they are unable to perform interdependent functions, which means each cell is on its own to do what needs to be done.
Repairing these connections is possible when you used pulsed magnetic therapy, which reenergizes your cells and restores their communication pathways.
Once they can talk to each other again, they have to work less hard, which slows the aging process down.
PEMF devices can promote the production of more antioxidants within your body, and these compounds are your body’s natural defense against oxidative stress, and free radicals which are responsible for the aging process.
When you give your cells more oxygen, too, such as after a PEMF treatment, you also neutralize some of the effects of aging.
Neutralized Effects of Electrosmog Exposure
Every electrical device emits an electromagnetic field, which is sometimes referred to as electrosmog.
These types of fields come from sources like computers, cell phones, TVs, power lines, and pretty much anything with a battery or plug.
The frequencies in electrosmog can be harmful to your body over time, and because you cannot escape them in your life, you must find ways to neutralize their influence on your health.
Pulsed magnetic fields like those in PEMF devices restore the correct frequencies within your cells while giving your tissues the energy they need, which combats the effects of electrosmog.
Magnetic therapy is an ancient tradition with positive effects on both the mind and the body.
Using magnetic therapy can not only reduce pain and lower inflammation but can improve several chronic conditions and disorders.
Pulsed electromagnetic field therapy, in particular, is an effective treatment for not only arthritis and migraine pain but also various kinds of inflammation, soft tissue damage, and mental health problems.
While static magnets have been used for centuries, there is more research in the medical community to support the use of electromagnetic energy for treating health problems and improving well-being.
While early healers clearly recognized the power that magnets have for improving health, it was not until the advent of more modern technology that we have finally started to harness this power to its full potential.
Magnetic therapy is helpful for treating a wide range of conditions, including diabetes, bone fractures, rheumatoid arthritis, tendonitis, osteoarthritis, depression, nerve damage, and insomnia.
It can even help protect you from the effects of electrosmog, aging, and stress.
Overall, you can enjoy improved health and fitness when you use PEMF therapy to treat your body and rejuvenate your cells’ natural energy levels.
Richard Hoover is a PEMF expert and content contributor to PEMF Advisor. With a bachelor’s degree in physics and multiple certifications in natural health programs, he is one of the best PEMF experts around.