Acupuncture and Magnets for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a practice that developed as a part of traditional Chinese medicine. Some people try it to treat rheumatoid arthritis pain or to treat the rheumatoid arthritis itself.
 
Effectiveness and safety information:
 
  • Good research studies have shown that acupuncture can help relieve pain associated with osteoarthritis. However, not much is known about its effectiveness for symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. A handful of small studies have been conducted, and the findings do not clearly answer this question. Issues with the studies have included design problems, a small number of participants, variations in which acupuncture was given on the body, and how many treatments were given and for how long. More and better research is needed.
     
  • Acupuncture tends to have minimal, if any, side effects. Relatively few complications from acupuncture have been reported to the FDA. If a person decides to use acupuncture, it is important to find a licensed and certified practitioner, as any complications have usually occurred from inadequate practitioner training and experience.
     

Magnets

Magnets are objects that produce a type of energy called magnetic fields. The term "magnets" is also used to refer to consumer products that contain magnets. Examples include shoe insoles, clothing, wraps for parts of the body, and mattress pads. These are of a type called static magnets, because their magnetic fields are unchanging.
 
Effectiveness and safety information on static magnets:
 
  • So far, research does not firmly support claims that static magnets are effective at treating pain, including pain from rheumatoid arthritis. In those cases in which some benefit was seen, it has not been proven why; many scientists think it may be due to a placebo effect. If someone does experience a benefit from a magnet, it will tend to occur quickly.
     
  • Static magnets should not be used by pregnant women; people who have a condition (such as an acute sprain, inflammation, infection, or wound) that could be affected by dilation of the blood vessels; and people who use a device such as a pacemaker, defibrillator, or insulin pump, or who use a medication patch.

 

The second type of magnets used for health purposes are called electromagnets (EMs), because they produce magnetic fields only when electric current flows through them. EMs are used in conventional medicine to treat bone fractures that have not healed well, and they are being studied in research settings for a number of other conditions (including cancer, epilepsy, rheumatoid arthritis, and mental disorders). Some consumer products using EMs are available.
 
Effectiveness and safety information on electromagnets:
 
  • EMs are being studied because there have been some encouraging early findings indicating the possibility of benefits for pain, physical function, and stiffness. However, it is too early to know for sure whether EMs are of benefit to patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
     
  • EMs should not be used by pregnant women; people who have a condition (such as an acute sprain, inflammation, infection, or wound) that could be affected by dilation of the blood vessels; and people who use a device such as a pacemaker, defibrillator, or insulin pump, or who use a medication patch. It may be advisable for people who have a history of cancer or seizure disorder to avoid using EMs until more is known about their effects on these medical conditions.

 

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