Static Magnetic Fields for Treatment of Fibromyalgia: A Randomized Controlled Trial
Dr. Alan P. Alfano (Feb 2001)
Researchers from the University of Virginia conducted one of the largest and most rigorous clinical trials magnetic therapy to date regarding the use of biomagnetic therapy to treat patients with chronic pain. Results of the study were obtained from 94 participants who suffer from fibromyalgia, a chronic syndrome affecting around 2% of the population, and which is responsible for widespread pain, fatigue, anxiety.
The purpose of the study was to test the effectiveness of static magnetic fields of two differing configurations, produced by magnetic therapy sleep pads, as adjunctive therapies in reducing perceived pain in patients and improving the functional status of individuals with fibromyalgia.
The study was set-up as a randomized, placebo-controlled, 6 month trial, and was conducted from November 1997 through December 1998. The participants were adults who met the American College of Rheumatology criteria for fibromyalgia, and were recruited through various clinical referral and media announcements and evaluated at a university clinic.
Participants were randomly separated into 4 treatment groups in order to test the effects of magnetic therapy mattress pads on several measures of pain. Subjective ratings of the participants pain was measured over 6 months utilizing the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire, pain intensity ratings, and tender point counts and pain intensity.
One study group slept on mattress pads that administered magnet therapy to the entire body. A second study group slept on mattress pads that administered magnet therapy to only parts of the body. A third study group slept on mattress pads that had no magnet therapy magnets in them. The last study group was instructed to simply continue with their existing pain treatment plan with no additional magnetic therapy.
Participants in Functional Pad A group used a magnetic pad for six months which provided exposure to a low, uniform static magnetic field to the whole body. Participants in the Functional Pad B group slept on a magnetic pad for six months which administered a low static magnetic field which varied both spatially and in polarity. Participants in two fake groups utilized magnetic pads which were identical in appearance and texture to the functional magnetic pads but had inactive magnets; these two groups were combined for analysis. Participants in the Usual Care group continued using their existing treatment programs.
After six months, there was a significant difference among the study groups in pain intensity ratings (p = 0.03), with Functional Pad A group displaying the largest reduction from baseline. All four of the study groups displayed a reduction in the number of tender points, but the difference among the study groups was not significant (p = 0.72). The functional magnetic pad study groups displayed the greatest reduction in total tender point pain intensity, but overall differences were not statistically significant (p = 0.25). The improvement in functional status was largest in the functional magnetic pad groups, but differences among the groups was not significant (p = 0.23).
Although the functional magnetic pad study groups showed improvements in functional status, pain intensity level, tender point count, and tender point intensity after six months, with the exception of pain intensity level, these measured improvements were not statistically significant from the changes in the fake group or in the Usual Care group.
The study did find astatistically significant difference in pain intensity reduction for the magnetic mattress cover groups. The two groups of participants who slept on the magnetic therapy mattress pads 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 said, “The results tell us maybe this therapy works, and that more research is justified.”