is the King of All Secrets.” Paracelus
disability, such as spinal cord injury (SCI), multiple sclerosis (MS),
and post polio syndrome, often aggravates many ailments that are
amenable to magnetic therapy, an increasingly popular alternative
In the late eighteenth century, Franz
Anton Mesmer used bar magnets and hypnotic
“animal magnetism” (i.e., mesmerization) to treat patients.
Due to the controversy surrounding this procedure, France’s
King Louis the XVI formed a prestigious commission composed of
pre-eminent scientists, including Benjamin Franklin, to investigate
Although this scrutiny ruined
Mesmer’s career, in a paradoxical twist of fate, commission member
Joseph Guillotin’s invention later beheaded the King, as well as many
other commission members. Mesmer died many years later.
relatively recently, scientists believed that life was mostly a
biochemical process. The idea that magnetic fields could significantly
influence living systems seemed far-fetched. Perspectives have shifted
rapidly, however, and many scientists now believe that at some level we
are fundamentally electromagnetic creatures.
radical paradigm shift has profound medical implications because modern
medicine has focused on biochemical processes. If these processes are
influenced by our electromagnetic nature, any healing approach that
focuses exclusively on them will ultimately be limited.
of life’s magnetic nature are now plentiful. Many creatures, such as
homing pigeons, butterflies, and bees navigate using Earth’s magnetic
field. Even humans can roughly sense magnetic direction. These
abilities, in part, appear to be mediated through a magnetic substance
called magnetite, which has been discovered in the tissue, including the
human brain, of many living things. Researchers have found magnetite
clusters near the brain’s all-important, magnetically sensitive pineal
gland, which secretes hormones affecting the entire body.
only are we affected by magnetic fields but we also generate them. For
example, scientists can measure the brain and heart’s magnetic fields
with instruments called the magnetoencephalograph and magnetocardiogram,
magnetic potential is so great that we can even defy gravity under the
right circumstances. For example, scientists can levitate frogs by using
high-intensity magnetic fields. When subjected to such strong fields,
spinning electrons within the frog align themselves to cumulatively
create a small magnetic field. Like a compass needle repulsed by a bar
magnet, the large external field repels the frog’s small field
sufficiently to counteract gravity.
Magnetism has always been a part of
mankind’s healing armamentarium. Many indigenous and ancient
civilizations - including the Hebrews, Arabs, Indians, Chinese,
Egyptians, and Greeks - used magnets for healing. According to Legend,
Cleopatra wore a magnetic amulet on her forehead to preserve her youth;
this placement put it near the brain’s magnetically sensitive pineal
One of the more influential figures in
magnetic-healing history was the 15th century physician
Paracelus, who helped to bring medicine out of the Dark Ages.
Supposedly, the inspiration for Goethe’s Dr. Faustus, who sold
his soul to the devil in exchange for knowledge, Paracelus had visionary
insights on the role of energetic forces, including magnetism, in
These insights anticipated by nearly
500 years the underlying concepts of modern mind-body disciplines, such
as psychoneuroimmunolgy and many holistic approaches. Basically,
Paracelus believed that magnetic force could energize the body and
promote self-healing. His
work greatly influenced Mesmer.
America, magnet use soared after the Civil War. People could even order
the devices through the Sears Roebuck catalog. Turn-of-the-century
medical texts devoted chapters to the subject.
However, as pharmaceutical approaches revolutionized medicine,
magnetic therapy lost its appeal - until recently when the limitations
of these approaches became more evident.
magnetic healing renaissance has been remarkable. Millions of people
throughout the world now use magnets, sales total more than $2 billion a
year, and cost-conscious, health-insurance companies cover the therapy.
is created primarily by the spin of electrons within a substance. If the
spin of sufficient numbers of electrons is aligned, the substance
becomes magnetic. Although iron is readily magnetized because of its
many surplus electrons, virtually all substances can be magnetized.
Natural magnets – lodestones - were created when
iron-containing lava cooled and was magnetized by Earth’s magnetic
magnets are now made by passing a strong surge of direct-current (DC)
electricity through an iron bar. Their strength has been greatly
increased by combining iron with other elements.
are available in a wide-range of materials, strengths, and shapes:
tiny BB-size used by acupuncturists, dime-size, neodymium (a
rare-earth metal) of extraordinary power, domino, rectangular block, and
flexible magnets of any size and shape. Therapeutic magnets are often
cased in ceramic or embedded in an elastic patch or flexible strip. They
are incorporated in wrist and back supports, seat and mattress pads,
jewelry, and clothing-related items, such as shoe inserts and belts.
medical applications and scientific studies have used pulsed
electromagnetic fields. In these fields, the electric current generating
the magnetic field is turned on and off at a specified frequency.
magnetic fields drop off quickly with distance, the closer the magnet is
to the skin the better. Although effectiveness may wear off as the body
adapts, magnets may be worn as long as desired.
magnet’s therapeutic strength is a function of magnetic flux - measured in gauss - and physical
size. For reference, Earth’s magnetic field is 0.5 gauss, a
refrigerator magnet holding a shopping list about 10 gauss, and a
cupboard-door latch magnet about 400. Therapeutic magnets range from 200
to over 10,000 gauss.
size is also therapeutically important. For example, small neodymium
magnets may have strength in excess of 10,000 gauss. However, because
their fields can only penetrate a few inches into the body, they are
used for treating localized conditions. In contrast, a large block
magnet of much lower flux strength may penetrate through the body. Given
the importance of size, the profound influence Earth’s small 0.5-gauss
field has on life is more readily understandable.
understudied, a magnet’s poles appear to exert different healing
effects. The north one (the side that attracts the north-pole-seeking
end of a compass needle) calms, sedates, and reduces inflammation. In
contrast, the south pole stimulates and promotes healing, growth and
Magnets Affect the Body
not exactly sure how, scientists believe that magnetic fields perturb
the body’s own magnetic energy, which, in turn, triggers more
conventional biochemical and physiological mechanisms. Magnetic fields:
Increase blood flow, bringing in more oxygen and
nutrients, and flushing away waste products.
Modulate calcium flow through the body, which is essential
to many physiological processes. Magnetic fields can attract calcium
ions to heal a broken bone or help move calcium away from painful
Alter the acidity or alkalinity of body fluids, which are
often out of balance with illness;
Affect hormone production (including those of the
brain’s all-important pineal gland), which initiates a cascade of
Alter enzyme activity and other biochemical processes,
such as the production of ATP, a molecule that provides cellular fuel
for the entire body.
Stimulate electromagnetic energy flow through acupuncture
Alter cell chromosome alignment.
have used magnetic therapy to treat many ailments. In Healing with Magnets, Gary Null provides an extensive list of not
only these ailments but also supporting scientific studies (see
Table). General uses include relief of pain and discomfort,
reduction of inflammation, improved circulation, the ability to fight
infections, reduction of stress, sleep promotion, correction of various
central nervous system disorders, overall energy enhancement,
acceleration of healing (especially bone fractures), and athletic
paralysis aggravates many ailments amenable to magnetic therapy, it may
be especially relevant for people with spinal cord dysfunction (SCD).
Studies have shown that magnetic therapy is effective in controlling
pain, enhancing circulation, promoting wound healing, reducing carpal
tunnel syndrome, etc. (For specific ailments, review the listed
is a societal problem of enormous proportions. For example, 80 % of
Americans have severe back pain sometime in their lives, 40-million
suffer from arthritic pain, and 40-million have recurrent headaches.
Chronic pain alone costs the economy nearly $100 billion a year.
drugs do not seem to be the answer.
Their effectiveness is limited, the body builds up tolerance, and
side effects hospitalize over 76,000 people each year.
of the need, pain has been the most emphasized magnetic-therapy
application. Numerous studies support its efficacy.
of the more scientifically rigorous of these studies focussed on the
pain associated with post-polio syndrome (PPS) (see Vallbona, et al., Archives
Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. November, 1997). As is
frequently the situation with SCD, individuals with PPS experience pain
for a variety of reasons, such as over-use injuries or joint and muscle
study used a double-blind design, the scientific “gold-standard” for
showing effectiveness. The design eliminates the psychological placebo
effect because neither physician nor subject knows who receives
treatment or placebo control.
strapped either a small, low-intensity magnet or inactive magnet
(placebo) to the most sensitive sore spots of 50 subjects with PPS, who
were experiencing arthritic or muscle pain. Overall, 76% of the subjects
who received the active magnet reported a decrease in pain. In contrast,
only 19 % with an inactive magnet felt an improvement.
fields also seem to relief MS symptoms. Several double-blind and many
case studies suggest that pulsed electromagnetic fields can ease pain
and spasticity and improve bladder control, cognitive function, fatigue
level, mobility and vision in people with MS. (see Richards, et al., Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America,
Cord Injury (SCI)
people believe that electromagnetic energy will eventually play a
paramount role in neuronal regeneration and restoring function after
spinal cord injury. Animal studies indicate that pulsed electromagnetic
fields stimulate both peripheral and spinal cord neuronal regeneration,
as well as functional recovery.
fields influence 1) calcium influx through the neuronal cell membrane,
which affects essential cellular functions; and 2) levels of key nerve
growth factors, which affect regeneration. Furthermore, studies suggest
that magnetic fields alter the physical matrix of the tissue scar that
forms after spinal cord injury in a way that is less inhibitory to
cord injury clinical applications of magnetism are growing.
For example, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is one of the best ways to
visualize the brain and spinal cord. A technique called functional magnetic stimulation enhances urination and defecation,
prevents deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) by inducing leg contractions, and
increases respiratory and coughing capability. And pulsed
electromagnetic energy accelerates pressure ulcer healing.
there are anecdotal reports of some function being restored in humans
using magnetic therapy, which will be discussed in a future article (insert
is predicted that electromagnetism will become the foundation of 21st
century medicine or, at least, the mortar that integrates the
biochemical concepts that have been so fundamental to the medicine of
the last century. Already providing important clinical applications, as
well as tantalizing insights into neuronal regeneration, as Paracelus
said “Magnetism is the King of all Secrets.”
further information, consult:
Therapy: The Pain Cure Alternative by R. Lawrence, P. Rosch,
& J. Plowden, Prima Publishing (1998).
with Magnets by G. Null, Carroll
& Graf Publishers, (1998)
Healing by B. Payne, Lotus Press, (1997).
Pain Relief Breakthrough by J. Whitaker and B. Adderly, Little,
Brown, & Company (1998).
Magnetic products are available from
many sources, including the FeelGood Company’s mail-order catalog
(call 800-997-6789 or check www.feelgoodfast.com.).
studies indicate the potential benefit of magnetic-therapy for many
disorders and ailments (from Healing
with Magnets by Gary Null):
||Spinal Cord Injury
|Diseases of Larynx