Encyclopedia Home / B / Bio-magnetic Treatment - HealthCentral Encyclopedia

Bio-magnetic Treatment

  • Definition

    Bio-magnetic treatment involves the use of a device to apply a low-voltage, electromagnetic field to the skin in the affected area of the body.


    Although the clinical benefits of electromagnetic fields have been claimed for years, it is still unclear how they work and under what circumstances they should be used for patient care.

    According to some scientists, there is a positive role of pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) therapy in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). One recent study found that the responses to PEMF were more subdued in seropositive patients (those who were positive for rheumatoid factor in their blood).

    On the whole, the number of studies showing no benefit appears to out-weigh the number that do. Furthermore, it is difficult to ensure patients do not know which group they are in and “expect” they will improve because they know they have an actual magnet as opposed to a placebo device. This expectancy may explain why some studies have shown modest improvement in pain.

    There is evidence that direct-current and time-varying electric fields are generated in bone by metabolic activity and mechanical deformation, respectively. Externally supplied direct currents have been used to treat non-unions, appearing to trigger mitosis (cell division) and recruitment of bone-forming cells. The exact mechanism for why PEMF may help in bone healing is not understood.

    The use of PEMF to treat non-healing fractures is now a standard accepted approach for long bones, but definitive benefit has not been demonstrated yet for non-long bone fractures. Time-varying electromagnetic fields have been used to heal non-unions and to stabilize hip implants, fuse spines, and treat bone decay and osteoarthritis. The mechanisms of action are still not completely understood but are being actively researched. Studies of menopause symptoms and magnets have all been undertaken, but no benefit has been demonstrated.

    Transcranial magnetic stimulation has been investigated as a treatment for depression. To date, studies are conflicting as to whether this approach may benefit patients. Some studies have shown small benefits while others none. However, it is possible that physicians and scientists have not yet learned the corrected doses or delivery mechanisms for this treatment. Further work is on-going.

    News reports that use stories of how a treatment works for only a few people are not sufficient proof of how well a treatment will work for most people or how safe the treatment is. People with arthritis and other disorders should check with their doctor before participating in any treatment. While magnetic fields do appear to have potentially beneficial biological effects, the only area in which this has applied with full success in healing of long-bone fractures. Further research in this area is needed before final conclusions can be made.


    What can you tell me about bio-magnetic treatment (or a low-voltage electromagnetic treatment)?

    What are the risks and benefits?

    What is the cost?

    Is it FDA approved?