Copper bracelets amd magnets for rheumatoid arthritis
Many people try wearing copper bracelets to help reduce pain or stiffness from rheumatoid arthritis, however research suggests they have no real effect on pain, swelling, or disease progression.
The practice of wearing copper bracelets to combat rheumatism has been popular since the 1970s. Belief in the healing power of magnets and the practice of wearing magnetic objects to alleviate symptoms of arthritis is a tradition that spans two millennia.
Devices, such as bracelets and insoles, which incorporate either permanent magnets or copper, are widely promoted for relieving pain and combating the progression of chronic musculoskeletal disorders, including rheumatoid arthritis.
Around 4 out of 10 people in the UK use complementary medicine at some point in their lives. For those with painful arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions the number rises to 6 out of 10.
It's estimated millions of pounds worth of magnetic devices are sold annually worldwide despite the fact little research has been conducted to evaluate the efficacy of such treatments.
Copper bracelet study results
A 2013 University of York study looked at the effects of copper bracelets and magnetic wrist straps on rheumatoid arthritis, following up from earlier research on the bracelets for osteoarthritis.
The research published in the journal PLOS ONE, found that both the standard magnetic wrist strap and the copper bracelet provided no meaningful therapeutic effects beyond those of a placebo.
The research team suggested two main reasons why wearers sometimes report benefit: firstly, devices such as these provide a placebo effect for users who believe in them; secondly, people normally begin wearing them during a flare up period and then as their symptoms subside naturally over time they confuse this with a therapeutic effect.
Pain varies greatly over time in conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, and the way we perceive pain can be altered significantly by the power of the mind.
Arthritis Research UK agrees that "there’s no scientific or medical evidence that copper bracelets offer any benefit."
The charity says copper in the bracelet can’t be absorbed into your joint in any way, and even if it did get absorbed, there’s no evidence a shortage of copper in the body is linked to arthritis.
However, if people do decide to wear copper bracelets, they do appear to be safe to use.