- NEW YORK (AP) _ A preliminary
study suggests there may be something to one popular folk remedy _ magnets
really might ease pain in some cases. More research is needed, agree the
physician who conducted the small study and an outside observer. Dr. Michael
Weintraub, a neurologist at the New York Medical College in Valhalla, said
a group of patients with chronic foot pain reported improvement after wearing
pads equipped with low-intensity magnets. His study in this month's American
Journal of Pain Management run counter to studies that had failed to show
any beneficial effect from magnets, which have been used for centuries
on various ailments but without scientific proof they actually did any
good. Weintraub began his four-month study in July 1997, using 24 patients
with chronic pain caused by diabetes as well as other ailments. The tests
were conducted at his office in Briarcliff Manor and at Phelps Memorial
Hospital in Sleepy Hollow.
Nineteen patients completed the study. In the first month, each person
was given a pad equipped with magnets for one foot and a nonmagnetized
pad for the other foot, and told to wear them 24 hours a day. They were
not told which pad was which, and after the first month the pads were switched.
They described their pain levels twice daily using a five-point scale.
By the end of the study, nine of the 10 diabetics reported less pain by
an average of a full point. Three of the nine nondiabetics had a similar
result. About 20 millions diabetics are subject to painful burning sensations,
numbness and tingling in the feet and hands. Weintraub's study is ``a tremendous
breakthrough,'' said Dr. Paul Rosch, president of the American Institute
of Stress in Yonkers. Rosch, who has written about the history of magnet
therapy, cautioned that more work is needed. ``We don't know the mechanism
by which this works. It's all trial and error,'' he said Wednesday. In
addition, ``from a statistical point of view, the sampling is very small.
But it does work, '' he said, adding that he would now try the method on
his own patients. Weintraub also said that because his study used a relatively
small group, it must be regarded as preliminary to further research.