Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Now with added magnetism (for the time being)

When I went to give my talk to St Annes Vets in Eastbourne the other week, I was asked to explain the differences in benefits and uses between the various types of complementary therapy that they could recommend to their clients. It was physiotherapy that stumped me as it seemed they had the same aims as massage therapy. I concluded that the main difference is the tools we use. My tools are my hands and education of owners afterwards, whereas physiotherapists frequently manipulate the soft tissue with tools such as lasers, heat, ultrasound, traction, manipulation and much more. 

Last week I treated the lovely Buzz who had undergone several months of treatment from a veterinary physiotherapist. The owner confirmed that they did include massage in their treatment programme but also used tools as above. 

I love gadgets and now wanted gadgets! I wanted to be able to wave a shiny glowing thing to add to my toolkit but thought that going out and buying a laser was probably not the first choice. I’d end up burning a hole through my treatment room wall or something. 

Spookily, a day later I received an email from a canine group that referred to a Magnessage – a shiny gizmo that uses magnetic field therapy and claims to help relieve pain in humans and dogs. I have heard of some dogs that wear magnetic collars for arthritis and pain relief but had not seen this shiny gadget before. Being the scientist that I am I did some research. It didn’t all look good. 

Wikipedia says : “Magnet therapy, magnetic therapy, or magnotherapy is a pseudoscientific alternative medicine practice involving the use of static magnetic fields. Practitioners claim that subjecting certain parts of the body to magnetostatic fields produced by permanent magnets has beneficial health effects. These physical and biological claims are unproven and no effects on health or healing have been established. Although haemoglobin, the blood protein that carries oxygen, is weakly diamagnetic (when oxygenated) or paramagnetic (when deoxygenated) the magnets used in magnetic therapy are many orders of magnitude too weak to have any measurable effect on blood flow.” 

Oh dear! 

Another excellent review of the use of magnets was done by Elizabeth Palermo called “Does Magnetic Therapy Work?” (http://www.livescience.com/40174-magnetic-therapy.html) The author says “Studies suggest that static magnetic therapy devices may not work at all beyond having a placebo effect on those who wear them.” Hmm…I’ll take the ‘may’. That article goes on to say “While this idea (increased blood flow) may sound plausible because blood contains iron and magnets attract iron, the iron in blood is bound to haemoglobin and is not ferromagnetic. If blood was ferromagnetic, you would essentially blow up when undergoing an MRI scan, in which the magnets used are thousands of times more powerful than those incorporated into magnetic bracelets and the like.” Ouch. Remind me not to go in an MRI scanner. She continues with a great analogy of “Therapeutic magnets sold to ease aches and pains have magnetic fields that are generally too weak to penetrate your skin. You can test this by observing the weak interaction between a magnetic shoe insert and a paperclip when separated by a sock. Human skin is about 3 mm deep, thicker than some socks.” 

On the plus side (I always find when doing research for any article that there are always negatives and polar opposite positives – just like a magnet!), magnetic field therapy has been in use for many years and was, apparently, popular in ancient Greece, Egypt and China where lodestones were used. It can’t all be made up, can it? 

In the manual that came with our Magnessage it says that we are surrounded by terrestrial magnetism and that every cell in the body has its own electromagnetic field that depletes daily. This is normally repair and replenished naturally but if the body is unwell or stressed, this restoration can be affected. 

They admit it is not a miracle cure but is non-invasive, drug free and painless with no side effects. 

So why not give it a go? Chris could use it for his human clients too. 

A couple of days later the shiny new piece of kit arrived. It looks rather like a sawn off light sabre from Star Wars (it looks like I drew the short straw when the weapons were handed out) and I do feel a bit like Harry Potter as I wave it around. It even has two speeds (although I am not sure yet why). 

I am a good Dad and so before I used it on the dogs, I used it on my back and then Chris wafted it over his elbow. Placebo or what, but it felt better. Chris was sure his elbow was warming up. So then to try it out on the braver of our two dogs, Sarah. 

Sarah and the magic wand
Amazingly she seemed to love it. It only takes 5 minutes a session so after her regular massage session (using my tried and trusted hand tools) I waved it around her front leg muscles and joints and she carried on snoozing. So it can’t be doing any harm. And, so far, I haven’t managed to blow up the microwave with it or reset all the batteries in the clocks in the house so I must be using it correctly. 

I now have a gadget. I now have a shiny shiny! Will it be on EBay in three months time? Who knows? But I am prepared to give it go, not as a replacement but as an addition to all the other things I have learned and use. Watch this space. If anyone has any experience of magnet field therapy, please let me know. I can add that to my findings.

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