Copper, Magnetic Bracelets Don't Ease Arthritis: Experts

Tuesday, 17 Sep 2013 03:15 PM

By Nick Tate

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Those copper and magnet bracelets that have become popular with athletes and others hoping to ease chronic pain appear to be little more than a fashion accessory.
 
New research conducted at the University of York has found the wrist straps have no real effect on pain, swelling, or disease progression in arthritis patients.
 
In the first scientific study of the potential health benefits of the devices, researchers tracked 70 arthritis patients who wore four different devices over a five-month period — reporting on their pain, disability, and medication use. Participants also provided blood samples in order to allow researchers to monitor changes in inflammation.
 
Editor’s Note: These 6 Things Make Your Arthritis and Joint Pain Worse

The results, published in the Public Library of Science journal PLOS ONE, found that both the standard magnetic wrist strap and the copper bracelet provided no meaningful therapeutic effects beyond those of an inactive placebo device, which was not magnetic and did not contain copper.
 
"It's a shame that these devices don't seem to have any genuine benefit. They're so simple and generally safe to use," said lead researcher Stewart Richmond, M.D., with the Department of Health Sciences at York. "But what these findings do tell us is that people who suffer with rheumatoid arthritis may be better off saving their money, or spending it on other complementary interventions, such as dietary fish oils for example, which have far better evidence for effectiveness.
 
"Warning people who suspect they may have rheumatoid arthritis to consult their [doctor] and seek early medical treatment, rather than placing faith in such devices, is also important in helping to avoid long-term joint damage resulting from uncontrolled inflammation."
 
Dr. Richmond noted some wearers do report benefits from the devices, but they are likely tied to other factors.
 
"Firstly, devices such as these provide a placebo effect for users who believe in them," he said. "Secondly, people normally begin wearing them during a flare-up period and then as their symptoms subside naturally over time they confuse this with a therapeutic effect. Pain varies greatly over time in conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, and the way we perceive pain can be altered significantly by the power of the mind."
 
Magnet therapy is often used to manage chronic pain, with worldwide annual sales of devices exceeding $1 billion, the researchers said. Wearing copper bracelets to combat rheumatism has been popular since the 1970s.

An earlier study by Dr. Richmond and his colleagues, published in 2009, cast doubt on the effectiveness of such devices. The new study confirms and builds on those findings.
 
Editor’s Note: These 6 Things Make Your Arthritis and Joint Pain Worse


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