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Dr. Oz Promotes Magnet Cure: Helpful or Hokum?

Tim Boyer's picture

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.”

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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.



These things are junk science. Dr. Oz has shown his gullibility here. None of the studies of these worthless devices has been done in a statistically valid way. Don't waste your money.
I have been using magnets since 1999. I had a slipped disc in my back for 5 years and went to chiroprators 3 times a week, physical therapy once a week, accupuncture once a week and massage therapist once a week for 5 years. I researched a company that had many magnetic devises for sleep, wrist, knee, back, ankle shoulder and neck. I started off with the sleep pad and in two weeks my sleep, back pain and energy was perfect. I also found out all magnets are not equal. The company Nikken originally started in Japan. They have studies and research behind all their products.I feel people that do not do their research and want to discredit anything without looking in to it will stay ignorant. I am glad to see Dr. Oz looking into natural solutions that really makes a difference in people lives.
I noticed that some of the post defend the magnets. The problem I had with Dr. Oz on the only method for back pain is acupuncture is that he did not offer any other alternative when it has been proven that back pain is the cause of weak muscles and I can attest to the fact the backpain can be greatly improved performing exercise such as Pilates that strengthen the core muscles. I was definitely disappointed that he let that opportunity pass him by on his recent show.
Acupuncture may be able to treat your symptoms
I hate to rain on your parade, but I was a Nikken representative at one time and was constantly embarrassed at how expensive they were and how ineffective they were. I lost a few good friends by selling them those worthless devices! I can, however, recommend Polar Power in Oklahoma. They have a large inventory of therapeutic magnets and I have found them to be very effective when applied to a painful area. I don't represent them as they don't use representatives, but I believe in magnetic therapy and this is a legitimate company whose products are the best!
there are lots of good studies out of china on static magnetic fields; problem is the positive results are incrementally smaller and failures far greater than with pulsed fields. when frequency is in the infrasound range of below 20 hz the success ratio is 4 or 5 to 1. i.e. 80-90% of study subjects respond with significant improvement. take the NASA watershed study at 10 Hz proving tissue regeneration at 4 times baseline and genetic effects where over 300 genes associated with either maturity (turn OFF) and development (turn ON). so, anyone here...and i mean every one of you that poo-poo this stuff are either paid spammers to put fear of failure into your psyche or they know absolutely nothing about the subject. http://ston.jsc.nasa.gov/collections/TRS/_techrep/TP-2003-212054.pdf
Paul, While I can certainly appreciate your enthusiasm and insight on the subject, the study you posted has little direct application to the layperson suffering from back pain. Yes, it did show the growth of neural tissue in a 3D environment, but please provide a concise correlation between this and the actually decrease of back pain (the whole article revolving around magnets as a treatment tool). While not a scientist personnaly, I'm fairly educated and see nothing in the which empirically ties the two together. The data is more suited to neuroscientific academia than the real world pain mangement (at least in the short to medium terms). So no, I'm not a spammer, and while not an expert on bioscientific advances, I AM a longtime back pain sufferer who has done MUCH research on the subject.
you cannot compare static field technologies to pulsed or any other time varying electromagnetic field technologies. nikken had one gizmo that flopped a magnet end over end. that produced an alternating N/S field. its frequency range was 0-100 and no special references were giving to people regarding best frequencies.
Thanks for your recommendation about Polar Power Magnets; I will check them out, as they aren't MLM and you aren't their paid rep. I have Nikken insoles for my diabetic foot pain. They provided amazing relief for my swollen feet, but the plastic is chipping now. I couldn't stomach replacing them at their prohibitive pricing, but feared poor quality in any other brand.
You my friend are so right i'v benn on nikken sence 1998 i broke my neck twice I.m a retired jockey people don get it. But the word is getting out there
Since first learning of Nikken magnets, they have given me much relief over the years. After a woman i know (Barb) introduced me to them. She had a hard time convincing me to try them! They were her own personal magnets. She knew they worked, and saw i was suffering daily, every time she dropped off her son for me to watch. The Nikken Co. is the best in my belief and they make several different types of magnets. After trying several types myself, I found the type that works best for me! And purchased two identical ones, one for each rump cheek/hip area. The ones i like best are made by Nikken and approx 9" in length. The cost is approx. $70 each. I found the magnets most useful after & during all my pregnancy's, when my sciatic nerve pain would go through the roof! Often for weeks or months at a time. These periods or horrific pain were non-stop day & night, and no pain medication could touch them! Being pain free has turned these magnets into prized possessions. Now, any time my pain try's to sneak back, i can get rid of it within days by using them again..
Agreed. As a long-time sufferer of back pain, this is the sort of quack "science" that does nothing but suck $$$ from those seeking relief. A randomized, double-blinded study conducted by the VA (1998-1999) demonstrated that there was NO difference in effect between the actual magnet and placebo version. What a load of cr*p!
I don't believe anything the VA says. They have already misdiagnosed me 2 times. I have been using magnetic therapy on and off for 15 years now. I don't care what the reviews say that this does not work. All I care about it works for me. If the magnets stop me from having to take pain meds then I'm a foot ahead of the game.
Whoops....forgot to include the link to the study's abstract: http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/283/10/1322.abstract
i was just directed back to this page after so many years due to a client. this is a static magnet study you twat. the Oz show was about pulsed electromagnetic fields. you're not even comparing apples and oranges. the stupidity of amerikans (or trolls) is just mind boggling. thank God we're not all like that.
Thanks for the post on the magnets featured by Dr. Oz. I was watching his show one day on the discussion of back pain. The guest mentioned that acupuncture was the only successful method proven which astonished me because I had severe back pain which I treated using Pilates. It made my back 100% better. He seem to fall right into the gimimck with his guest and never mentioned pilates which I know others attest to that it has made their back pain subside tremenously. I lost respect for him after that program.
Nasa has just released a patent using pulsed magnetic fields to treat pain, grow tissue and much more. The space program have secretly used these devices to reverse the bone loss of the astronauts. Oz was just on top of it and wanted to be the first to go mainstream with it. It's US patent number 7,601,114B2
cause you never tried them go to you tube and watch NIKKEN MAGNETs testament's
STFU stupid! You don't know anything about ANY of these devices and no knowledge or proof to back up your claims of these devices being "junk science". You're just a cynical negative idiot that LOVES to sh*t on any & everything you don't understand. These devices DO work I have used one for the past 6 months & it has worked wonders.
Screw you, you pessimistic idiot. I've been to 9 doctors for my back pain, none of which who could help me relieve my pain and all of which said they could see nothing in the thousands of dollars I spent trying to get an answer. so, like many other people who come down with an illness and no answers from these so called educated idiot doctors, I became my own advocate.. I tried this magnet theory on my back -- why?! because I had nothing to lost moron. it's people like you who go around thinking that science is the cure to everything. Frist off, You're wrong! it's invention and ideas that bring about change. No different than a writer who sits at a computer and turns 300 blank pages into art. where's the science in that?! bottom line is if it works, if it helps the person who's getting the relief wtf do u care?! just try it and stfu! and if it doesn't work than it doesn't work. but it's better than putting your life in the hands of these so called professionals who typically do not want to think outside the box BECAUSE it won't make them money jag-off. so there's your answer and suck on that.
My Mom purchased a magnetic mattress pad and it cost her a great deal of money. She slept on it for 2 years. When she was diagnosed with bladder cancer she stopped using it. The Doctor's asked if she ever smoked or drank alcohol, which is the leading reasons for causing bladder cancer. Of course she never smoked a cigarette in her life or might have had 5 drinks through out her whole life. And she always ate very healthy. So one is to believe that this magnetic mattress really didn't help her at all. She passed away Sept. 2014. By the time they found out what she had it was to far advanced to treat it.
What studies are you drawing upon? I have read about these studies, which is pooed pooed by doctor's sucking the wallets of their patients dry, which they cannot cure, but continue to write pain medication prescriptions for their patients. They seem to work, and paint medications turn patients into drug addicts.
I know this therapy is viewed as quackery but I try to keep an open mind , at least until all the studies are in. I have not tried a pulse magnetic therapy but I have tried magnets for chronic knee pain and it definitely made a difference. Placebo? Maybe, but when you have pain sometimes you don't care where the relief comes from.
The best reply to the placebo comment is to watch an animal in pain. They will lay on a magnetic seat cushion even though it is in a place where they are not allowed. Horses being transported across the country, using a magnetic blanket, will run and kick up there heals at the shear joy of being released from thier confinement. The other horses in the same transport can barely move because they are so stiff from inactivity. My cat had a broken front leg and a magnet wrapped in her cast healed in half the time expected. Animals do not know the word placebo, yet it works for them. I had a shattered knee cap and used magnets and never needed narcotics. The doctors could not easily find a pulse in my husband's foot, due to poor circulation. By putting foot magnets in his socks, he was in a hospital bed, the pulse was strong and easily located. The doctor's comment was "continue using the magnets if you believe they work". When the magnets were removed from the socks the pulse was, again, hard to find. To me and my husband this was proof enough. And I believe it had nothing to do with placebo.
What is the effect of electric mattress pads, blankets, heating pads etc? How do they affect our body's energy field?
Hi, while any electric current can create a magnetic field, it is likely that the field is too small in an electric blanket to have any effect whatsoever. In comparison, things like computers, TVs, etc; generate significant magnetic fields.
I hope for OZ to die a painful death in 2012. This dude is getting into QUAKE medicine more and more. Getting rich off of desperate people. I hate his freaken guts and he will feel it.
Angelo; may some fool talking on his cell phone run you off the road and cause you to be wracked in excruciating pain after multiple surgeries. Have some respect for real science; that may be out of your comfort zone; but is helping real people return to productive lives. Dr. Oz has helped millions. My doctors are very well respected and tops in their prospective fields. They hold Dr. Oz in high esteem.
And you don't think regular medical Doctors are getting rich of desperate people. Think again
Wow. What a hateful and evil comment to make. People are responsible for their own decisions. Just because a TV doctor recommends something doesn't mean we are forced to try it. What is truly scary in this world is knowing that there extists such vehement, hateful and aggressive attitudes like yours. It's just his opinion, and Dr Oz is fully entitled to share it, if he so wishes.