Copper or magnetic bracelets fail to help with arthritis, study shows

A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled crossover trial of 70 people showed that these devices, called “folklore remedies” don’t work.

Copper bracelets and magnetic wrist straps fail to help rheumatoid arthritis, research says.

Copper bracelets and magnet wrist straps have no real effect on pain, swelling, or disease progression in rheumatoid arthritis, according to new findings from a study conducted at the University of York.

In the first randomised controlled trial to study the effects of copper bracelets and magnetic wrist straps on rheumatoid arthritis, 70 patients with active symptoms each wore four different devices over a five-month period, reporting on their pain, disability, and medication use throughout the study. Participants also provided blood samples, after wearing each device for five weeks, in order to monitor changes in inflammation.

The research published in PLOS ONE, show that both the standard magnetic wrist strap and the copper bracelet provided no meaningful therapeutic effects beyond those of a placebo, which was not magnetic and did not contain copper.

The doctor who led the study said: “It’s a shame that these devices don’t seem to have any genuine benefit. They’re so simple and generally safe to use.” That’s kind of odd. It’s like saying oh it’s a shame peanut butter or warm milk or prayer doesn’t work for arthritis. It’s a shame nothing is an easy fix but this was a silly idea with zero plausibility. It’s no surprise it does not work.

Here is the paper at PLOS ONE:

Folklore remedies for pain and inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis include the application of magnets and copper to the skin. Despite the popular use of devices containing magnets or copper for this purpose, little research has been conducted to evaluate the efficacy of such treatments.

It’s not a big study at all. But it does give the expected result. There is simply no reason beyond placebo that these would be judged effective by wearers.

Tip: Mark Hixson

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  7 comments for “Copper or magnetic bracelets fail to help with arthritis, study shows

  1. gewsin
    September 17, 2013 at 8:28 PM

    Because the interwebs have taught me that amalgam fillings are poisonous, I had all my fillings removed and replaced with copper so that I will have the benefit of copper near my brain. And I can tell that God likes me for doing it, and will bless me with lots of money. I can almost taste the pennies on my way now.

  2. Kevin
    September 17, 2013 at 11:42 PM

    Good stuff Ms. Hill! You’re strongly worded comment in this piece had me laughing. I forwarded the piece to every one I can.

    Good work and good writing should be praised.
    Keep it up.

  3. ZombyWoof
    September 18, 2013 at 6:22 AM

    Isn’t that old news?

  4. CLamb
    September 18, 2013 at 3:56 PM

    Oh no! Overuse of copper and magnets have bred resistant arthritis! There should be laws to limit copper and magnets to prescription use only.

  5. September 18, 2013 at 10:56 PM

    I once did a study on myself using NSAIDs(ibuprofen; naproxen) and a copper bracelet. I have moderate osteoarthritis in my hands and shoulders. Over a period of about a year I used one or both for alternating periods of 2-3 months, and went through the cycle 2 or 3 times. It was certainly not a double blind test, but I think I’m a very objective person. The results were entirely predictable.

    NSAID alone = no pain
    NSAID + copper bracelet = no pain
    Copper bracelet alone = pain
    No NSAID or copper bracelet = pain

    The periods with neither, or with just the copper bracelet, never lasted more than a week. Each time the pain returned within days and with a vengeance. The copper bracelet was a rather attractive piece of jewelry, but beyond that it was totally worthless; complete BULLSHIT.

  6. January 1, 2014 at 5:56 AM

    I have looked at this research and it is about as bad as the claims made promoting copper bracelets.
    Copper Bracelets were only used as a placebo in this research, meaning any results achieved by those wearing copper bracelets was automatically recorded as placebo.
    Only a small percentage of those tested were given copper bracelets, meaning it is possible a large percentage of those given copper bracelets could have shown a result that overall would have shown an insignificant percentage (in line with placebo).
    People with low pain were excluded from the research which means it is entirely possible the same research could have been done testing a low strength analgesic and found no benefit in taking a pain killer which as we know is nonsense.

    I do not benefit in any way from copper bracelets working or not working I am just interested in finding the truth.

  7. January 3, 2014 at 3:25 AM

    I am really sorry but on having another look at the research I realise my point about the percentage of people tested with a copper bracelet is wrong. In fact all of those taking part in the research had 5 weeks testing all 4 straps/bracelets.
    I stand by the rest of what I said though.
    “Plain copper bracelets were used with the intention of serving as an additional placebo.”
    “Of the 106 people who initially volunteered to take part, 24 were excluded because they did not meet eligibility criteria, most commonly because of low levels of pain.”

    http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0071529

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