Recently a patient I was assessing revealed that she uses magnetized devices to ease pain in her hands and wrists. She wants to know if she can safely use them if she becomes pregnant. No one has ever asked me this before!! What's the best advice?-L.V., MD.
The power of magnets to ease pain and other ailments has intrigued people for centuries, but magnet therapy hasn't been subjected to scientific scrutiny until recently. Reports of serious adverse reactions are rare, but most device manufacturers recommend not using magnet therapy during pregnancy because possible effects on the fetus are unknown. Magnet therapy is also contraindicated in people with electronic medical devices such as pacemakers and in those using medication patches (because magnets may dilate vessels, increasing drug absorption).
How well does magnet therapy work for relieving pain? According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a branch of the National Institutes of Health, "the research findings so far do not firmly support claims that magnets are effective for treatment of pain." To learn more, see "Questions and Answers about Using Magnets to Treat Pain" at http://nccam.nih.gov/health/magnet/magnet.htm.
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