Over the past decade, chronic pain sufferers have become avid consumers of magnet therapy. Unfortunately, doctors and consumers alike know very little about the clinical effects of these products.

In a new study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine , researchers from the University of Virginia describe the largest and most rigorous clinical trial to date of a magnet therapy used to treat patients with chronic pain. Results were obtained from 94 patients with fibromyalgia, a syndrome affecting 2 percent of the general population and responsible for widespread pain, fatigue, fitful sleep and anxiety in sufferers.

Researchers randomly separated participants into five treatment groups to test the effects of magnetic sleep pads on several measures of participants’ pain. Ratings of subjects’ pain were measured over six months using the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire, pain intensity ratings, tender point counts, and tender point pain intensity.

One group slept on pads that administered whole body therapy with a low magnetic field. A second group received magnet therapy that varied in intensity. A third group slept on the pads but received no magnetic therapy while a fourth group were instructed to stick to their normal pain treatment regimens with no magnetic therapy.

Ann Gill Taylor, R.N., from the University of Virginia, says, “We did find a statistically significant difference in pain intensity reduction for one of the active magnet pad groups. The two groups that slept on pads with active magnets generally showed the greatest improvements in outcome scores of pain intensity level, number of tender points on the body and functional status after six months.”

Alan P. Alfano, M.D., from the University of Virginia, says, “The results tell us maybe this therapy works, and that maybe more research is justified.” However, he cautions, “You can’t draw final conclusions from only one study.”