A magnetic treatment that's guaranteed to draw you in
What do Cleopatra, NASA astronauts, the golfer Christy O'Connor Jnr, and my best friend's dog have in common?
They all are, or have been, fans of magnetic therapy.
They are not alone. More than 150 million people worldwide use magnetic therapy to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, improve circulation and enhance well-being.
There are also those who claim it is all a placebo effect. Beyond hearing how Cleop-atra wore a magnet on her forehead to keep her beautiful, two stories got me curious.
Firstly, NASA research found that the reason why astronauts were returning to earth feeling ill and debilitated, was because they were suffering withdrawal symptoms from the earth's magnetosphere, which allows the blood to become oxygenated and to circulate freely.
Once static magnets were placed both within spacesuits and the spacecraft, the problem disappeared.
Secondly, and more appealing to me as a dog lover, my friend's red setter was suffering with arthritic joints as he advanced in years.
When he was given a magnetic collar to wear, he enjoyed a new spring in his step and ease of movement within his joints. The vet said it had given him an extra two years of life. The placebo effect may be very real when it comes to people, but animals are a different story.
Research tells me that magnetic therapy works by attracting electrically-charged (both positive and negative) ions in the bloodstream, thus improving the blood flow and oxygen to affected areas.
As a thriving industry, all sorts of magnetic products are available from mattresses to car seats, insoles and bracelets.
Following the lead of Ryder Cup golfer Christy O'Connor Jnr, who swears by magnetic therapy to relieve stiffness, muscle or joint pain, I browse through Lifes2Good's selection of magnetic products and order insoles and patches. I cut the insoles to size and pop them in my shoes. And I don't notice much difference.
On talking to magnetic therapy expert, practitioner and pain-nurse, Debbie Shimadry, it becomes apparent why. "The greatest misconception out there about magnetic therapy is that if you wear a magnetic bracelet you'll relieve pain in your knee or shoulder. Magnets only work locally. If you want pain relief for a knee problem, you apply a magnetic knee brace or patches to the knee."
The three essentials when it comes to magnetic therapy are to find the right strength of magnet, to place the magnet in the right place and leave it on for the right length of time.
"Homer Simpson fridge magnets don't work. These are about 150 Gauss, whereas a medicinal magnet is at least 800 Gauss. For magnets to work they need to to be placed locally where the pain is experienced and they need to be worn 24/7.
"Certain statistics have shown when all of the above are applied, there is a success rating of 92.5pc." says Debbie.
Although I had worn the insoles on and off over a 10-day period, I have to admitt that Iwasn't consistent or specific enough.
Instead, I decided to try the magnetic patches -- each measuring 2,500 Gauss -- on my neck, which is prone to pain and stiffness after a whiplash injury.
The packet contains 50 circular little plaster patches and 10 magnets. I place two on the sore part on the back of my neck and forget about them. I sleep, swim, shower with them on and they unexpectedly remain in place. Every few days, I reapply the magnet with a fresh plaster.
After a few days, I notice in the mornings, especially, a lack of stiffness and ease of rotation. Most significantly, my neck feels more balanced than it has in quite a while.
Verdict: Being under 30 and not having suffered from chronic pain, I have to admit I may not be the best case study for magnetic therapy. But once I found a magnetic product that worked for me, I was amazed at the effect.
Life2good insoles, €29.95, and patches, €12.95, in pharmacies and by postal order. To place an order call 1850 351010
Magnetic therapy: how does it work?
Originating in China over 4,000 years, magnetic therapy is a safe, non-invasive therapy that has been used by many cultures to relieve pain.
Magnets only work locally, picking up the iron particles in the blood and working on the affected area. Their strength should be at least 800 Gauss.
Magnets are used to reduce inflammation and rid the body of lactic acid, improve circulation and oxygenate the blood, to relieve migraines, sinusitis, insomnia, digestive and muscular problems.
One useful website is www.magnetictherapyfacts.org.
It wasn't until 1987 that the World Health Organisation declared magnets natural and safe. However, certain individuals are advised not to wear them, including anyone with a pacemaker, defibrillator, hearing aid implant, implanted insulin pumps, or anyone who is pregnant.
A study at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, found that 76pc of post-polio patients treated with a magnet got pain relief.
Another study found that 90pc of patients with diabetic neuropathy reported less foot pain after wearing magnetic insoles for four months.