Dr. Oz Promotes Magnet Cure: Helpful or Hokum?
Treating pain with magnets is the topic of a recent episode of the Dr. Oz Show where Dr. Oz tells his viewers that, “If you’ve tried everything to ease your back pain, your neck pain, foot pain, arthritis pain, then this is the show for you. There’s a revolutionary cure for pain that few doctors know about because it is not a new pill or surgery. It uses moving magnet energy waves that changes the way your body copes with pain.” The magnetic therapy he refers to is called pulsed electromagnetic field therapy and is based on the idea that magnetic waves can relieve pain and help the healing process for many medical conditions.
Dr. Oz begins with explaining that the magnetic therapy he is talking about is not by using typical static magnets found on a refrigerator door; but rather, dynamic magnets that produce electromagnetic waves that he claims can help patients with conditions such as back pain due to inflammation surrounding the vertebrae.
He tells us that the human body is full of electricity—especially in the nerve cells—and that magnetic fields can alter the electricity in the body. “These moving magnetic fields change the way electricity, ions, positive and negative charges move throughout your body including your spine. They affect your cartilage, they affect the bones, they affect the nerves that take pain fibers from there. And by doing that, they influence how we react,” says Dr. Oz.
With Dr. Oz is special guest James Dillard, MD a pain specialist who treats patients with pulsed electromagnetic field therapy. When Dr. Oz asks Dr. Dillard how magnetic fields can help ease pain, Dr. Dillard replies, “It’s because the electromagnets actually affects the nerve cells. Nerve cells are electrical cells and the magnetic fields can actually affect how the nerves fire and quiet them down without drugs that most people are used to, and increase the circulation in the area and aid the healing.”
When asking Dr. Dillard whether there are any risks associated with using electromagnetic therapy, such as cancer, Dr. Dillard reassures the audience that orthopedic surgeons have been using electromagnetic therapy for 20 years to heal fractures and non-unions on their patients.
Dr. Oz tells the audience that scientific research has demonstrated success with one type of pain therapy that involves a mat outfitted with special coils than an individual lies on while pulses of electromagnetic waves pass along and though the body. The electromagnetic waves go deep into the body stimulating charged ions and electrical flow that brings nutrients to the affected region while at the same time increasing the blood flow by opening up the blood vessels at the affected area that is causing pain. “You don’t just feel better—you are better,” states Dr. Oz. “That’s an important advance for us, one that we really have not been practicing until today. Because today we are going to change that.”
As a testimonial to and demonstration of pulsed electromagnetic field therapy, Dr. Oz brings onstage a guest who says that she has suffered from chronic back pain for 5 years and that on the way to Chicago to be on the show it was difficult for her to even sit on her seat in the plane. He explains to the audience that prior to arriving, his guest had been using a pulsed electromagnetic field therapy mat for her pain. “I’ve used it for three days in row for about three hours a day,” said his guest. She stated that on her way to the studio, she has noticed a little relief from using a therapy mat. Dr. Dillard then explains that in some cases of severe, acute pain that treatment can take 2-3 weeks before relief is felt.
A second guest as a testimonial to the effectiveness of the mat was a police officer who claimed to be so debilitated by back pain that it was difficult to do his job and that he had to call in sick on some days. Medications and treatment by chiropractors did not help and he did not find relief until he tried out a pulsed electromagnetic field therapy mat. “Within six to eight weeks the pain was gone. I have no pain today at all,” he claims. However, the mat is not for everyone cautions Dr. Dillard. People who should not use the mat include pregnant women and patients with pacemakers.
The therapy mat costs approximately $2000, but can be rented on a weekly basis for about $35 per week. As it turns out, there are a number of makers of electromagnetic field devices for treating pain and injury, but not all are FDA approved. Dr. Oz recommends that if you do decide to try one, to choose one that is clearly labeled as FDA approved. He also warns viewers to be wary of online advertisements using his name and image that promote the sale of electromagnetic devices for treating pain. Dr. Oz says that he does not promote the use of specific products that were introduced on the show. Rather, that he is bringing information that he believes is useful and encourages his viewers to print out an information sheet.
on his website and show it to their doctor the next time they see him or her for pain treatment.
The use of electricity and electromagnetic waves in treating health and disease traces as far back as the early days of electricity when scientists and tinkerers figured out how to build electricity-delivering devices with coils of wires and acid beaker batteries. They learned that an electrical current also induces a magnetic field, which led to numerous medical “shocking” instruments for treating a variety of maladies—usually with painful and sometimes lethal results.
Whether pulsed field electromagnetic therapy proves to be truly beneficial remains to be seen in peer-reviewed scientific papers from credible journals and not from TV. It all sounds promising, but then again, so did electro-therapy from bygone years.
It is unfortunate that the Dr. Oz Show did not address the concern of electromagnetic waves from the therapy mats in comparison to concerns of electromagnetic waves from computing devices and cell phones. What frequencies are used by the mats? Is your head exposed to the electromagnetic waves while lying on the mat? What are the standards used by the FDA to approve this type of medical device?
Was this truly a useful episode for alerting viewers with chronic pain about a potential alternative treatment or was this just a thinly disguised infomercial? We would like to hear your comments.