Controversy over the use of magnetic therapy in the treatment of osteoarthritis

brstd-11-wmaps-510Ask anyone who suffers from osteoarthritis – or any form of arthritis for that matter – and they’ll tell you that they have heard of magnetic therapy. A good many of them are cautiously positive about its efficacy as a palliative to the condition. Some of them even swear by it. But GPs and hospital specialists tend to be wary of it, claiming that it is at best unproven and at worst just a placebo.

But what does the research show? There are a number of studies that have shown that magnet therapy does alleviate pain in osteoarthritis sufferers. However, the medical establishment has always been uncomfortable with these studies and has attacked them, on two sets of grounds. The first is that the sample of patients they study is too small to draw any firm conclusions. The second is that even though the studies are technically “double-blind” – the Gold Standard within the medical research industry – they can never be completely “blind” because the patients can hold the putative magnets to an iron object and see if there is any attraction between them. This would mean that if they wanted to they could find out and this would invalidate the results of the study.

bac-1021-wmpsNow it seems strange to me that anyone would actually want to do this.  Apart from anything else it would imply ill-intent on the part of the patients. But is there any reason to think that human nature acts this way. Certainly no one has ever undertaken a study to determine whether such patient behaviour is common, or even if it happens at all!

A recent article on the Magnetic products store blog made short shrift of this argument:

One assumes that they would have no motive to do so. It is not as if either they or anyone else stands to benefit from such behaviour. And yet the sceptics – or rather the cynics – would have us believe that people who have volunteered to take part in a clinical trial would rather go out of their way to sabotage the trial or undermine its results than simply cooperate and work with the trial to achieve its objectives. This is a fairly outlandish conclusion to draw – and surely an absurd misinterpretation of human nature.

This very succinctly sums up the problem. The medical establishment is so anxious to discredit magnetic therapy – and indeed alternative medicine in general – that they cannot see the wood for the trees.

 

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