Original Research

The Use of Magnets, Magnetic Fields, and Copper Devices in a Veteran Population

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Background: Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use is increasing in the US and throughout the world. The use of magnets, magnetic fields, and copper devices (MMFC) for health care are CAM therapies. Available information suggests significant consumer spending on MMFC therapy, but minimal information exists on usage patterns.

Methods: We created a brief questionnaire and distributed it to veteran patients at the Carl T. Hayden Veterans Affairs Medical Center infusion center in Phoenix, Arizona. The questionnaire categorized respondents by age groups, diagnostic groups by specialty (endocrinology, gastroenterology, hematology/oncology, neurology, rheumatology, and other), and whether MMFCs were being used and for what purpose. The questionnaire also asked whether the respondent would consider participating in a clinical study using MMFCs.

Results: Analyzing the 206 evaluable surveys, we found an overall use rate of about 1 in 4 respondents. The majority used copper devices, and the endocrinology group showed the highest percentage use. Many veterans reported that they would consider participating in MMFC clinical studies. For interest in clinical trial participation, the age groups with the highest response for magnets in clinical trials was 31 to 50 years (64%), and for magnetic fields 51 to 65 years (52%).

Conclusions: About 25% of surveyed veterans reported the use of MMFCs. Veterans reported that they are likely to participate in clinical studies using these CAM therapies.



Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is a therapeutic approach to health care used in association with or in place of standard medical therapeutic approaches. When describing CAM, the terms complementary and alternative are often used interchangeably, but the terms refer to different concepts. A nonmainstream approach used together with conventional medicine is considered complementary, whereas an approach used in place of conventional medicine is considered alternative. Most people who use nonmainstream approaches also use conventional health care.1

Integrative medicine represents therapeutic interventions that bring conventional and complementary approaches together in a coordinated way. Integrative health also emphasizes multimodal interventions, which are ≥ 2 interventions such as conventional (eg, medication, physical rehabilitation, psychotherapy) and complementary health approaches (eg, acupuncture, yoga, and probiotics) in various combinations, with an emphasis on treating the whole person rather than 1 organ system. Integrative health aims for well-coordinated care among different practitioners and institutions.1

Functional medicine requires an individualized assessment and therapeutic plan for each patient, including optimizing the function of each organ system. It uses research to understand a patient’s unique needs and formulates a plan that often uses diet, exercise, and stress reduction methods. Functional medicine may use combinations of naturopathic, osteopathic, and chiropractic medicine, among other therapies. Functional medicine has been called a systems biology model, and patients and practitioners work together to achieve the highest expression of health by addressing the underlying causes of disease.2,3

According to a 2012 national survey, more than 30% of adults and about 12% of children use health care approaches that are not part of conventional medical care or that may have unconventional origins. A National Center for Health Statistics study found that the most common complementary medical interventions from 2002 to 2012 included natural products, deep breathing, yoga and other movement programs, and chiropractic, among others. Magnets, magnetic fields, and copper devices (MMFC), which are the focus of this study, were not among the top listed interventions.4 Recent data showed that individuals in the United States are high users of CAM, including many patients who have neoplastic disease.5,6

MMFCs are a part of CAM and are reported to be a billion-dollar industry worldwide, although it is not well studied.7,8 In our study, magnet refers to the use of a magnet in contact with the body, magnetic field refers to exposure to a magnetic field administered without direct contact with the body, and copper devices refer to devices that are in contact with the body, such as bracelets, necklaces, wraps, and joint braces. These devices are often constructed using copper mesh, or weaved copper wires. Advertising has helped to increase interest in the use of these devices for musculoskeletal pain and restricted joint movement therapies. However, it is less clear whether MMFCs are being used to provide therapy for other medical conditions, such as neoplastic disease.

It is unclear how widespread MMFC use is or how it is accessed. A 2016 study of veterans and CAM use did not specifically address MMFCs.9 A Japanese study of the use of CAM provided or prescribed by a physician found that just 12 of 1575 respondents (0.7%) described using magnetic therapy.10 A Korean internet study that assessed the use of CAM found that of 1668 respondents who received CAM therapy by practice or advice of a physician, 1.2% used magnet therapy.11,12 An online study of CAM use in patients with multiple sclerosis found that 9 of 1286 respondents (0.7%) had used magnetic field therapy in the previous 3 months.13

In this study, we aimed to assess MMFC use and perspectives in a veteran population at the Carl T. Hayden Veterans Affairs Medical Center (CTHVAMC) in Phoenix, Arizona.


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