People who call themselves “healers” use what they call animal magnetism, along with magnets, to relieve pain, ease tension, and reduce anxiety. Is the practice really effective? The Rumor detector checked out what the science says.
The concept of animal magnetism was developed by Franz-Anton Mesmer in 1773. According to this German doctor, we all have the ability to heal our neighbor thanks to a “magnetic fluid”. The “magnetizer”, that is to say the person capable of using this fluid, will transmit it to the person he treats by the laying on of hands in order to “rebalance” his “energies” and help him. to fight disease.
The practice was condemned by physicians as early as 1784, when a commission appointed by the Academy of Sciences concluded that the observed effects were attributable to the power of suggestion and to an effect of the imagination.
Even today, no scientific study demonstrates the effects of animal magnetism. Not even its existence, since it remains undetectable by modern devices – yet millions of times more sensitive than anything technology could offer a few decades ago. Even the “magnetizers” failed to detect the presence, behind a screen, of a person whom they had examined beforehand and whom they claimed to be able to perceive a magnetic signal, duringexperiments double blind carried out in 2004 and 2012 by the Zététique Observatory.
Another type of magnetism is found in the panoply of healers, that is, that produced by magnets. “Magnetotherapy” claims that the magnetism generated by magnets acts on the magnetic field of the human body. The magnet would channel this energy to relax or contract the nerve of the muscles. It would thus be possible to treat chronic pain, migraines and wound healing disorders.
There is no doubt about the magnetism released by the magnets: it can be measured. And it is known that there is weak magnetism in living bodies – the strongest emanates from the heart, but it remains so weak that need a device extremely sensitive to detect it. However, it has not been established that the imposition of magnets makes it possible to channel this energy for healing.
The technique consists of applying magnets to the painful region (knee, foot, wrist, back, etc.) or to an “acupuncture point” to create a magnetic field between the magnets. According to the various hypotheses which circulate, this magnetic field would act by stimulating the functioning of the cells, would activate the blood circulation, or would interrupt the transmission of the signal of the pain between the organ and the brain.
The problem is that the majority of current products do not emit a magnetic field strong enough to penetrate the skin, which casts doubt on their possible therapeutic utility.
What the research says
Regardless of the theories, several studies have attempted to measure whether the mere presence of magnets – also sold in the form of bracelets, shoes or magnetic clothing – had an effect on health.
However, for pain reduction, magnets do not do better than placebos, according to a review of 29 studies published in 2007. These results should be interpreted with caution, however, according to the researchers, since the studies reviewed looked at a wide variety of pain and the procedures employed (types of magnets , duration of treatment, etc.) were disparate.
The magnets would be superior to the placebo in the cases of pain related specifically to osteoarthritis, according to four of the studies in question. A small study of 194 people and published in 2004, also concluded that the pain caused by osteoarthritis of the hip and knee decreased when wearing magnetic bracelets. But the authors were unable, in this case, to say whether the relief was due to the wearing of the bracelet or to the placebo effect.
In 2003, a study found that wearing shoes with magnetized soles for three or four months resulted in reduced burning, numbness, tingling and pain in the feet in people with diabetic neuropathy. The researchers noted, however, that this was a “modest clinical benefit”.
Other studies have looked at the use of magnets to relieve pain in the Fromat the feet talon, at cou, knees, or to treat rheumatoid arthritis. However, the quantity or quality of research is always insufficient to validate the effectiveness of magnetotherapy. In the United States, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine concluded in 2013 that studies did not support the use of static magnets for any form of pain.
In contrast, magnets are harmless to health, declared the World Health Organization in 1987. Their use would however be not recommended for people with a pacemaker, an insulin pump or any device susceptible to being disturbed by a magnetic field, as well as for women who are less than three months pregnant.
There is no scientific basis for concluding that magnetism is effective at all by magnets, let alone the laying on of hands.