Posted: Sep 18, 2013 4:52 PM
Sept. 18, 2013 -- Copper bracelets and magnetic wrist straps have no real effect on pain and swelling in rheumatoid arthritis, a new study finds. They also seem to have no effect in preventing the disease from getting worse.
The practice of wearing copper bracelets to help RA has been popular since the 1970s. Belief in the healing power of magnets and the practice of wearing magnetic objects to help symptoms of arthritis is a centuries-old tradition.
It's estimated that more than $1 billion worth of magnetic devices are sold annually worldwide, despite the fact little research has been done to gauge how well the treatments work.
The study included 70 people with RA symptoms. They wore four different devices over a 5-month period and reported on their pain, disability, and medication use throughout.
Participants also provided blood samples after wearing each device for 5 weeks so the researchers could look for changes in inflammation.
The devices tested included a standard magnetic wrist strap, a demagnetized wrist strap, a weakened wrist strap, and a copper bracelet.
Participants were told the purpose of the trial was to test the effects of magnetic and copper bracelets, and that one or more of the devices might be a placebo.
The research, published in the journal PLOS ONE, shows that both the standard magnetic wrist strap and the copper bracelet provided no meaningful effects.
"What these findings do tell us is that people who suffer with rheumatoid arthritis may be better off saving their money, or spending it on other complementary interventions, such as dietary fish oils for example, which have far better evidence for effectiveness," writes Stewart Richmond, who led the study. He is a research fellow in the department of health sciences at University of York in the U.K.
Richmond says it's important that people who suspect they have rheumatoid arthritis talk to their doctor and seek early medical treatment, so they can avoid long-term joint damage from uncontrolled inflammation.
Jane Tadman from Arthritis Research U.K. says in an email that she was not surprised by the study's results. "Copper bracelets and other devices such as copper insoles are heavily marketed towards people with both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis on a purely anecdotal basis and without any evidence that they actually work, and this study confirms this lack of effectiveness."