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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Magnet Therapy

The term magnet therapy usually refers to the use of static magnets placed directly on the body, generally over regions of pain. Static magnets are either attached to the body by tape or encapsulated in specially designed products such as belts, wraps, or mattress pads. Static magnets are also sometimes known as permanent magnets.

Effect of Magnet Therapy on Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The administering of magnets on the wrists is thought to possibly help in the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Read more details about Magnet Therapy.

Research Evidence on Magnet Therapy

In the one reported double, placebo-controlled study of magnet therapy for carpal tunnel syndrome, 30 people with the health challenge received treatment with either a real or a fake static magnet.7 Dramatic, long-lasting benefits were seen with the magnet treatment. However, identical, dramatic long-lasting benefits were seen with placebo treatment as well! In two more small randomized trials, researchers again found that there were no differences between the treatment and the placebo groups. Both groups experienced an improvement in carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms.13-14

Interestingly, the fact that the placebo group was found to have equally effective results does not undermine the efficacy of the treatment - in fact, it raises the question whether simply having a practitioner take the time to administer a particular treatment makes the treatment effective. Perhaps it is less about the modality/treatment chosen, and more about the care brought to the therapy by the practitioner. Traditional scientific study does not, by-and-large, support the idea that the patient/practitioner connection or relationship might in fact be a major part of the healing/treatment that occurs; but in fact, this connection might be just as, if not more, important than the actual treatment in some cases.

Safety Issues

In general, magnets appear to be safe; the biggest risk appears to be irritation from tape holding them in place. MRI machines, for example, expose the body to gigantic magnetic fields, and extensive investigation has found no evidence of harm. However, during the MRI, the patient is subjected to a high level of magnetism for a short period of time, whereas people who use static magnets daily or sleep on them every night are subjected to a low level of magnetism over a long period of time. So far, it is not known whether this type of exposure has any deleterious effects. Nonetheless, one study, in which participants slept on a magnetic mattress pad every night for 4 months, found no side effects. 1 In addition, a safety study of rTMS found no evidence of harm. 2 In a large study in which rTMS was administered to numerous depressed patients, totaling over 10,000 cumulative treatment sessions, no significant adverse effects were reported. Transient headache and scalp discomfort were the most frequent problems reported. There were no seizures, nor changes in hearing or cognition. 3 It was previously thought that people with implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) and pacemakers should not use magnetic devices at all, but this recommendation has been adjusted. One study found that with the exception of magnetic mattresses and mattress pads, most magnets sold for therapeutic purposes do not interfere with the magnetically activated switches present in most pacemakers. Magnetic mattress pads can deactivate and alter the function of ICDs and pacemakers, but other therapeutic magnets are safe if kept 6 inches or further from these devices. 4 There are theoretical concerns that magnets might be risky for people with epilepsy. Similarly, until the physiological effects of magnet treatments are better understood, pregnant women should avoid them.


  1. Colbert AP, Markov MS, Banerji M, et al. Magnetic mattress pad use in patients with fibromyalgia: a randomized double-blind pilot study. J Back Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation. 1999;13:19-31.
  2. Loo C, Sachdev P, Elsayed H, McDarmont B, Mitchell P, Wilkinson M, Parker G, Gandevia S. Effects of a 2- to 4-week course of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) on neuropsychologic functioning, electroencephalogram, and auditory threshold in depressed patients. Biol Psychiatry. 49(7):615-23.
  3. Janicak PG, O'Reardon JP, Sampson SM, Husain MM, Lisanby SH, Rado JT, Heart KL, Demitrack MA. Transcranial magnetic stimulation in the treatment of major depressive disorder: a comprehensive summary of safety experience from acute exposure, extended exposure, and during reintroduction treatment. J Clin Psychiatry. 69(2):222-32.
  4. Van Lake P, Mattioni T. The effect of therapeutic magnet on implantable pacemaker and defibrilattor devices [abstract]. Pacing Clin Electrophysiol. 2000;23:723.
  1. Stransky M, Rubin A, Lava NS, et al. Treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome with vitamin B6: a double-blind study. South Med J. 1989;81:841-842.
  1. Ellis JM, Kishi T, Azuma J, et al. Vitamin B6 deficiency in patients with a clinical syndrome including the carpal tunnel defect. Biochemical and clinical response to therapy with pyridoxine. Res Commun Chem Pathol Pharmacol. 1976;13:743-757.
  1. Franzblau A, Rock CL, Werner RA, et al. The relationship of vitamin B6 status to median nerve function and carpal tunnel syndrome among active industrial workers. J Occup Environ Med. 1996;38:485-491.
  1. Stransky M, Rubin A, Lava NS, et al. Treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome with vitamin B6: a double-blind study. South Med J. 1989;81:841-842.
  1. Spooner GR, Desai HB, Angel JF, et al. Using pyridoxine to treat carpal tunnel syndrome . Can Fam Physician . 1993;39:2122-2127.
  1. Garfinkel MS, Singhal A, Katz WA, et al. Yoga-based intervention for carpal tunnel syndrome: a randomized trial. JAMA. 1998;280:1601-1603.
  1. Carter R, Hall T, Aspy CB, et al. Effectiveness of magnet therapy for treatment of writs pain attributed to carpal tunnel syndrome. J Fam Pract. 2002;51:38-40.
  1. Jeffrey SLA, Belcher HJCR. Use of arnica to relieve pain after carpal-tunnel release surgery. Altern Ther Health Med. 2002;8:66-68.
  1. Hui AC, Wong S, Leung CH, Tong P, et al. A randomized controlled trial of surgery vs steroid injection for carpal tunnel syndrome. Neurology. 2005;64:2074-2078.
  1. Ly-Pen D, Andreu JL, de Blas G, et al. Surgical decompression versus local steroid injection in carpal tunnel syndrome: a one-year, prospective, randomized, open, controlled clinical trial. Arthritis Rheum. 2005;52:612-619.
  1. Sato Y, Honda Y, Iwamoto J, et al. Amelioration by mecobalamin of subclinical carpal tunnel syndrome involving unaffected limbs in stroke patients. J Neurol Sci. 2005;231:13-18.
  1. Irvine J, Chong SL, Amirjani N, et al. Double-blind randomized controlled trial of low-level laser therapy in carpal tunnel syndrome. Muscle Nerve. 2004;30:182-187.
  1. Colbert AP, Markov MS, Carlson N, Gregory WL, Carlson H, Elmer PJ. Static magnetic field therapy for carpal tunnel syndrome: a feasibility study. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2010;91(7):1098-1104.
  1. Carter R, Aspy CB, Mold J. The effectiveness of magnet therapy for treatment of wrist pain attributed to carpal tunnel syndrome. J Fam Pract. 2002;51(1):38-40.

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1 Comment

Posted 11 years ago

The short term studies using magnet therapy were set up to fail :). The magnets were taped onto the wrist for 45 mins, a totally inadequate amount of time for even a pain pill to work. Properly designed and placed static magnet therapy DOES work for carpal tunnel syndrome because static magnets with spatially variable pole designs can and do cause reduction of inflammation as shown by many studies. I have used and recommended this safe alternative for many people with amazing results. Look around for a Nikken consultant and check out your options before opting for surgery. - Ravi Kulasekere PhD

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