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August 2, 2000

Are Magnets Effective for Pain Control?

Author Affiliations

Stephen J.LurieMD, PhD, Contributing EditorIndividualAuthor

JAMA. 2000;284(5):564-566. doi:10.1001/jama.284.5.561

To the Editor: Dr Collacott and colleagues1 found that magnets were ineffective in treating low back pain. Inasmuch as electromagnetic fields are known to alter biomolecular DNA synthesis, cell proliferation, membrane calcium fluxes, and cell surface properties in vitro,2 they may nonetheless be beneficial in treating patients with various disease states. The principal site of biophysical interaction leading to cell functional alterations with magnets is most likely the lipid membrane surface, where electromagnetic radiation may affect the ability of ion pump enzymes to move calcium, sodium, and potassium ions across the cell membranes.3

Magnetic fields might also affect human health by altering the equilibrium between cell death and proliferation by their effect on apoptosis via modulation of calcium influx.4 Indeed, magnetic fields have the ability to promote cancer,2,4 as well as promote skin disease, as we reported in their role in causing bullous pemphigoid.5 More testing is warranted to better appreciate the medical role of electromagnetic fields in medicine.

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