Medical magnetic fields have been found in extensive research in Europe, in humans and all kinds of animal species, to have many positive actions in the body. The medical magnetic fields work by stimulating the acupuncture system, the immune system of the body, improving circulation and oxygen levels in tissues, relaxing muscles, stimulating tissue healing, healing fractures and strengthening bones faster, decreasing nerve irritability, removing swelling, decreasing clotting and improving cell metabolism. Some very strong medical magnetic fields can actually stimulate muscles and nerves – used for incontinence, rebuilding muscles, nerves and depression.
How can something do all these seemingly different actions? The primary reason is because medical magnetic fields affect many molecular actions in the body and the movement of various ions, including calcium, and also increase nitric oxide, recently awarded the title of the molecule of the decade. Calcium ions are not just in bones. They are involved in a large number of cellular chemical processes, too numerous to list here.
What kinds of medical magnetic fields can people use to get these benefits? Medical magnetic fields are produced by both permanent (static) magnets and pulsed electromagnetic fields (PEMF’s). There have been many popular stories about permanent magnets and many are now available commercially – from various wraps, mattresses, shoe inserts, bracelets, pads and so on. Important distinctions among them are how much of the body they cover, the true strength of the magnet, the configuration of the field, flexibility and usefulness and length of time to be used. Some have more research available on them than others. These magnets have to be stronger than the earth’s field. Since the field of a magnet drops off in strength very rapidly, consideration has to be given to the strength of the magnet and the depth in the body of the tissue to be treated.
PEMFs are produced by special machines that generate specific electromagnetic signals found to have beneficial medical effects. Important distinctions among them are how much of the body they cover, the strength and configuration of the field(s), flexibility and usefulness, length of time to be used, frequencies and waveforms. PEMFs can produce actions in the body even with fields that are much weaker than the earth's. Many of the actions from PEMFs can be usually be expected to happen faster than with static magnets. Also, PEMFs have actions that static or permanent magnets don't have. These wave-like or resonance fields act like "throwing pebbles in a pond". The action continues long after the field is removed. Low frequency, low strength PEMFs were the first magnetic devices to be approved by the FDA in the 1980's. The first were for healing fractures that didn't unite. New higher strength ones are used to stimulate muscles and nerves. Others are very high frequency and have been used to decrease pain, swelling and heal wounds.
Static magnets and PEMFs can be used together. Since PEMFs are used for short durations, 8 to 30 minutes typically, additional benefit may be obtained by using static magnets in between PEMF sessions, including over acupuncture points. Clearly, static magnets shouldn't be used at the same time as a PEMF session.
Medical magnetic fields are very safe. Even the strongest magnetic fields, generated by MRI machines, have been found to be safe, except for very limited circumstances. Do not use medical magnetic fields, except under expert advice, when people have implanted electrical devices, like pacemakers and defibrillators. They are not advised to be used in pregnancy either, since safety has not been conclusively established. Low strength PEMFs are even safe with metallic implants, like hip and knee replacements.