Magnetic Therapy

There are many variations of magnets used in magnetic therapy, the broadest category being electromagnetic (magnetism generated from electricity) or static magnet therapy. For static magnets there are essentially three types:

Magnetic Material Energy Product (MGOe)
Rubberized Flexible 0.5 - 1.5 (very weak)
Ceramic 1.5 - 3.5 (moderate)
Rare Earth Neodymium 30 - 50 (very strong)
Reference: Colbert et al, Static Magnetic Field Therapy: Dosimetry Considerations.

It is important to understand that a magnetic field and its depth of penetration depend on the size, shape and volume as well as the magnetic material. For instance, the earth's magnetic field is 0.5 Gauss (0.05 mT) and will affect a compass in a commercial airliner travelling at an altitude of 10,000 meters, while a small rare earth 10,000 Gauss (1 Tesla) magnet (20,000 times stronger than the earth's) will have no effect on a compass 1 meter away. Clearly there is much more to magnets than Gauss or Tesla rating.

All magnets have a north (positive) and south (negative) pole and hence are bipolar. In magnetic therapy the term unipolar is sometimes used to describe a bipolar magnet used in a way where only one pole is directed to the body. Multipolar is used when describing a device that has both north and south poles directed to the body.

Q MagnetA Q magnet is a multipolar (e.g. Quadrapolar on one side) static magnet made of the highest quality rare earth neodymium magnetic material with a 1.35 Tesla or 13,500 Gauss rating at its strongest point and Energy Product of 45 MGOe (N45). The name Quadrapolar comes from the four alternating poles on the one face and if you turned it over all four poles would be reversed.

Most people think that a magnet is a magnet, but as you delve into the complex world of quantum physics, things are very different to what they appear on the surface. Magnetic fields are a vector quantity and as such have both quantity and directional values. Different magnetic materials have different properties and the size of a magnet also determines the strength and depth of penetration. Multipolar magnets are much more complex and generate magnetic field gradients which have very different effect on moving charged particles and as it turns out on nerve tissue than the common bipolar magnets. See here for one theory on how.

Quadrapolar Magnet computer generated mapFrom a biological and therapeutic perspective, the available research on magnetic therapy conducted for instance by neurologists at Vanderbilt Medical University is conclusive. The most important characteristic of a static magnetic field is the field gradient it generates and the steepness of those gradients. Magnetic therapy has been around for hundreds of years (see history of magnetic therapy) and the Quadrapolar or Q magnet has been one of the most significant advancement to date.

Without getting side tracked into some of the more, shall we say unusual approaches; there are generally three theories into the application of magnets on the body.

  1. They are worn like jewellery to affect the energy flow in the body.
  2. You apply either the South or North pole over different parts of the body, usually the painful area or acupuncture or acupressure points or say the belly button.
  3. The magnets are placed on very specific points on the body, usually over nerves, joints or areas of injury.

Effects purported by users and practitioners of magnetic therapy are increased circulation, reduced inflammation, correction of energy imbalances, enhanced immune function, more restful sleep, stress relief and reduced or cessation of pain.

While there may be some legitimacy to all three approaches, the third approach has been more thoroughly researched and has a significant body of published data to support the therapy. The research undertaken at Vanderbilt University suggests that the common bipolar magnets that are sewn into mattresses, blankets and pillows are having negligible effect on the nerve stimulus pathways. Besides, magnets used in this way are hardly going to be placed over specific anatomical structures.

The image below is taken from the research paper - "Effect of steady magnetic fields on action potentials and sodium currents of sensory neurons in vitro". McLean et al, Environmental Medicine, 8: 36-45, 1991. It shows the comparison of five different magnetic field arrays on nerve tissue.


The magnetic arrays are shown to the left of the respective rows. Intensity was set to elicit an action potential (the nerve's firing) with each stimulus (PRE). After exposure to the Quadrapolar array (MAGNET), the action potential firing was blocked completely in 4 minutes 30 seconds (first row), despite increased stimulus intensity. After removal of the array (POST), action potentials reappeared and the rate increased gradually over 5 minutes 40 seconds.

An array of four magnets with positive poles aided limited firing completely within 4 minutes 30 seconds (second row) and an array of four negative poles blocked about 50% of action potentials in 10 minutes (third row). Recovery occurred within seconds after removal of these arrays (POST). Two magnets of alternating polarity (fourth row) and a single magnet of positive polarity (fifth row) did not block action potentials after 10 minutes.

See the "how Q magnets work" page to learn how they work and what makes them different to the common bipolar magnets.

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Neuromagnetics Australia Pty Ltd manufactures and distributes the Quadrapolar or Qmagnet.

James Hermans
James Hermans
Managing Director
James Hermans