life: super powers not included

Copper and Magnets: No Help for Arthritis. Waste Money at Your Own Risk.

by Todd Ehlersphoto by Todd Ehlers

If you’ve ever dealt with pain for any extended amount of time, you know how alluring alternative treatments become. By the time I had been in and out of physical therapy twice, I was willing to try just about anything to cure my knee pain.

It’s true. One day, The Man came home from work with a brand spankin’ new energy necklace that was supposed to zap bad ions and rearrange your energy or something crazy. According to the package, it was supposed to make you as strong, fit, and healthy as the baseball player whose cutout capped off the aisle. (The Man’s a sucker for anything baseball related.) At first, I scoffed at the magic necklace. Ha! This can’t shuffle your ions. You got scammed!

Pretty soon, though, I started wrapping the necklace around my thigh. Just in case, you know? And guess what: It didn’t do a thing. But I was so desperate to heal that I figured I’d give it a try.

I was reminded of this when I read a recent study that said copper bracelets and magnetic wristlets don’t relieve arthritis pain. Researchers at the University of York tested the devices on 45 people age 50 or older who had osteoarthritis in a randomized, controlled trial. The participants wore four different bracelets—two magnetic bands, a copper bracelet, and a demagnetized strap—for 16 weeks each. They found no difference in pain and stiffness reduction or improvements in physical function among the four devices.

“It appears that any perceived benefit obtained from wearing a magnetic or copper bracelet can be attributed to psychological placebo effects,” says lead author Stewart Richmond of the Department of Health Sciences at the University of York. “People tend to buy them when they are in a lot of pain, then when the pain eases off over time they attribute this to the device. However, our findings suggest that such devices have no real advantage over placebo wrist straps that are not magnetic and do not contain copper.

The bottom line: The bracelets won’t cure you, but they won’t hurt you either. Well, maybe your wallet.

So, what alternative therapy have you tried? Has it worked?

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