While polio may have been eliminated in the industrialised world, there are still thousands of post-polio sufferers living with the after effects of chronic pain. Polio Australia has been established specifically for post-polio survivors and is an excellent resource.
The type of magnet used is this study is not a Q magnet.
The safety and effectiveness of Q magnets has not been established in the treatment of post-polio pain.
How many polio survivors realise that static magnets can provide proven pain relief?
The gold standard of clinical research is the double-blind study and in 1997, a very sceptical researcher Mr Vallbona undertook a well-designed study to test his theory that magnets are of no clinical use. The magnets used in the study were similar to Q magnets in that they contained alternating poles, but were different in that they were made of a much weaker flexible rubber magnetic material and were alternating concentric rings.
Vallbona and fellow researchers randomly divided 50 post-polio patients who reported muscular or arthritic-like pain into an active and a control group. The most painful trigger point was identified and the active group was treated with the real magnet and the control with the placebo. The active magnet was a multipolar flexible rubber magnet (300 to 500 Gauss) with a pattern of concentrically arranged circles of alternating polarity.
RESULTS OF THE STUDY:
In the active group, the pain scores reduced from an average of 9.6 out of 10 to 4.4 (active; p < .0001). For the control group, pain scores reduced from 9.5 to only 8.4 (control; p < .0001). The p value of less than 0.0001 indicates a highly statistical significant result with a less than one in ten thousand chance of being wrong. See more on the study as well as others here.
Those who received the active device reported much less pain than those who had the inactive device.
Vallbona concluded the application of a static magnetic field of 300-500 gauss over a trigger point offers significant and prompt relief of trigger point pain in post polio subjects.
See the following article on Vallbona’s research in the New York Times, here’s an excerpt…
“First, Vallbona informally tested magnets on a few patients. One was a priest with post-polio syndrome who celebrated mass with difficulty due to marked back pain that prevented him from raising his left hand. After applying a magnet for a few minutes the pain was gone, Vallbona recalled, and, ”the priest said this was a miracle.”
In a follow up published article, Vallbona concluded…
“The delivery of static magnetic fields through a magnetized device directly applied to a pain trigger point or to a localized painful area results in significant relief of pain within a short period of time (less than 45 minutes in our study) and with no apparent side effects. Based on the results of this study and reports in the literature of the effect on people with arthritis, it appears that magnetic fields may be useful in the management of pain in individuals with other types of impairments that are commonly treated in primary care settings.”
Response of Pain to Static Magnetic Fields in Postpolio Patients: A Double Blind Study.
Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, November 1997
Studies like this one show that static magnets can be optimised for therapeutic effects and when the right magnet is used for the right condition in the right way, the results can be life changing to the patient. Q magnets offer Quadrapolar, Hexapolar and Octapolar magnets made from rare earth Neodymium magnets, which are the strongest available. Hence the strength of the field and depth of penetration is much greater than that of flexible rubber magnets as used in the Vallbona study. But stronger doesn’t always mean “more” pain relief and static magnetic fields tend to operate in “therapeutic windows”. That’s why we have very small Q magnets that are also relatively weak and recommended for treating superficial targets such as trigger points.
But haven’t you heard that magnetic therapy is quackery? What people unfamiliar with the science don’t understand is not all magnets are created equal. In addition there are many opponents of magnetic field therapy with their own agenda who maintain the quackery meme. See more on astroturfing.
Here’s an example, The National Centre for Complementary and Integrative Health has what they call a Fact Sheet on magnets for pain on their website, you can see it here. We have a comprehensive response to the completely outdated fact sheet here. Their article does not even make mention of the promising areas of research on static magnets, namely multipolar magnets and magnetic field gradients. Nor does the article mention one of the more recent reviews by Laakso (2009) which concludes…
In a review of the known literature presented herein, it is not yet clear if static magnets have a significant role to play in the effective management of neuromusculoskeletal pain although some of the research is encouraging.
See here for a more in depth description of some of the larger published studies that conclude magnetic therapy has no benefit…
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