We often get asked the question… “Which side of the magnet do we apply, the north (positive) or south (negative) pole?”
Q magnets are multipolar magnets and for very good reasons both poles are placed facing the body. When quadrapolar magnets are used, all four poles face the body in what is a symmetrical field, much like the yin-yang symbol.
While the world wide web is a great research tool, it’s also a trap to being misled by people who really aren’t that well informed themselves. Hence people using magnets for pain relief can become fixated on needing to use a north or south pole magnet against the body for reasons that make little or no sense.
The following advice comes from an often quoted source of information on medical magnets…
“It seems, however, that only the effect of north magnetic pole is beneficial and long lasting, and when both magnetic poles being administered to a patient simultaneously unpleasant effects appear.” (REF 1)
The research and clinical experience of many hundreds of medical practitioners informs us that the statement above is complete nonsense. What does the research say?
There have been two published peer reviewed clinical trials comparing the effects of either magnetic pole on the human body. Hinman’s study (REF 2) was actually a response to a claim by Philpott. “Philpott claims the heart is the most responsive tissue to the stress or anti-stress fields created by magnets. He states that a significant (10 point) decrease in Heart Rate will occur within a few minutes of exposure to a negative static magnetic field, and that a positive static magnetic field will have the opposite effect.”
So Hinman devised a study whereby he randomly assigned 75 healthy subjects to the following groups.
- 25 people to a negative magnetic field
- 26 people to a positive magnetic field
- 24 people to a sham magnetic field
Subjects laid on a 50 X 60cm magnetic underlay with 42 placebos or strong magnets each measuring 400-500 gauss (40-50mT or around 1,000 times stronger than the earth’s magnetic field). Heart Rate and Blood Pressure measurements were taken after 1, 5, 10 and 15 minutes and at 5 minutes after removal. The results of the study demonstrated no difference between the three groups in heart rate or blood pressure. This study looked at magnetic fields covering relatively large areas of the body. What about very specific points on the body, could the north or south magnetic poles induce different physiological effects?
Along came a study by Mayrovitz (REF 3), who investigated the localised effect of different magnetic poles and a sham field over the second finger. Mayrovitz exposed 12 healthy volunteers to either a sham field or a rare earth molybdenum magnet over the palmer part of the finger for 15 minutes. Mayrovitz noted that “despite the fact that physics tells us that the field strength at the magnet’s north and south poles are equal, it has been argued that the biological effects strongly depend on which pole is applied to the target tissue”.
Accurate measurements on skin microcirculation were made and showed a significant reduction in blood circulation for both sides of the magnet when compared to the sham field. Interestingly there was no significant difference between the north and south pole groups.
Another application of static magnetic field therapy is Transcranial Static Magnetic Field Stimulation (tSMS). A study by Oliviero (REF 4) investigated the effects of placing a large neodymium magnet against the skull, over the motor cortex to assess neuromodulation. Their results showed different effects with different strength magnets, but no difference between the north and south pole.
The three studies quoted and my own experiments investigated the biological effects of static magnetic fields on human tissue. It appears that for the magnet type, field strength and application site and duration studied, that no difference could be detected to key indicators such as blood pressure, heart rate or an inflammatory response for either the positive or negative magnetic field.
However, there are intuitive healers practiced in the art of biomagnetic pairing or channelling energy flow (or chi) through meridians, which may see different effects from the north or south poles, but is not within the scope of this article.
Magnetic field lines are invisible and the naked eye is unable to detect the north or south pole or combination of a magnet. However, the direction of magnetic field lines and field gradients can be observed by sprinkling iron filings over a magnet.
Extensive research by a group of neurologists at Vanderbilt Medical University showed that static magnetic fields could be optimised for physiologic and therapeutic effects. The modelling has shown that the MER (maximally effective region) of the magnet coincided with regions in which the gradient (dB/dx) is predominantly perpendicular to the local field vector (REF 5). See article for Q magnet device selection for more information.
This can be observed in the picture above with the quadrapolar magnet showing iron filings running horizontal to the surface of the magnet where the polarity alternates. See how Q magnets work for more information.
- Philpott, V’. H. and Taplin, S, L. Biomagnetic Handbook: Today’s Introduction to the Energy Medicine of Tomorrow. Choctaw, Okla.: Enviro-Tech Products, 1990, pp. 23 and 24).
- Hinman, Martha R. (2002). “Comparative effect of positive and negative static magnetic fields on heart rate and blood pressure in healthy adults.” Clin Rehabil. 2002 Sep;16(6):669-74. PMID: 12392343, doi
- Mayrovitz, Harvey N., Groseclose Edye E. (2004). “Effects of a static magnetic field of either polarity on skin microcirculation.” Microvasc Res. 2005 Jan;69(1-2):24-7. PMID: 15797257, doi
- Oliviero, A., et al. (2011). “Transcranial static magnetic field stimulation of the human motor cortex.” J Physiol 589.20 (2011) pp 4949-4958 PMID: 21807616
- McLean, M., S. Engstrom, et al. (2001). “Static Magnetic Fields for the Treatment of Pain.” Epilepsy & Behavior 2(3): S74-S80 doi:10.1006/ebeh.2001.0211
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