Sheer Magnetism! (1) Cleopatra Swore by It (and So Does Cherie). but as the NHS Offers Magnet Therapy, Is It REALLY the Answer for Everything from Ulcers to Period Pains? (2) GoodHealth
Byline: LUCY ELKINS
MAGNETIC therapy is to be made available on the NHS - but is it good medicine or hocus pocus?
Certainly little is known about this healing technique, even though it has been used for centuries.
Cherie Blair and Cleopatra are two fans of magnets, which have been hailed as possible cures for everything from period pains to cancer.
Magnets used for therapy tend to look about the size of a 50p piece and are at least ten times stronger than the plastic letters found sticking to fridge doors.
The strength of the magnet and the number used depends on the condition to be treated. The body does have its own natural magnetic field - yet exactly how magnetic therapy works remains unclear.
'We have theories but no one knows for sure,' concedes Dr Nyjon Eccles, a GP from North London who has conducted studies on magnets.
'We think they work in a number of different ways. For example, we think that one of the reasons magnets are so good at reducing pain is that they seem to reduce the frequency of nerve signals from the site of pain up to the brain.
'They also seem to produce a small electrical current which, if placed near damaged tissue, helps stimulate healing by, for example, improving blood flow and stimulating the production of collagen tissue which helps wounds heal over.
'This is not claptrap. These effects have been seen and measured.' This week it was announced that magnetic therapy has been cleared for use in the NHS on leg ulcers. These tend to occur in the elderly, often as a result of poor wound healing or poor circulation. Treatment currently costs the NHS up to [pounds sterling]300million each year.
NHS managers were impressed by a study conducted by Dr Eccles which found that using a product called 4UlcerCare - a velcro leg wrap containing four magnets - just above the site of the wound speeds up the healing process and slashes the chance of ulcers recurring. The study looked at 27 patients over 12 weeks.
Those using conventional compression bandages and a deactivated magnet found their ulcers increased in size by an average of four per cent.
PATIENTS using the bandage and an activated magnet found their ulcer had reduced in size by 91 per cent.
In another study, 211 people who suffered recurrent leg ulcers were given given a magnet to wear for 20 months.
Their ulcers did not recur.
It is hoped that the [pounds sterling]13.80 device may save the NHS [pounds sterling]150 million a year by cutting the recurrence of ulcers and improving recovery times.
Another study found that magnets can ease period pains. A group of women who were given a small magnet to fasten to the front of their underwear found it reduced their pain by 50 per cent - even though some had found the pain so bad they had been unable to work. …