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History of Magnetic Field Therapy


History of Magnetic Field Therapy

There is continuous development in studies of how magnetic fields can stimulate the human body and it can even be said that magnets and other electromagnetic devices are close to getting mainstream medical acceptance. 

At the present, pulsed electromagnetic field therapy (PEMF therapy), shows the most promise among all types of magnetic field therapy. In the United States, PEMF therapy has received FDA approval for its use in treating nonunion fractures and depression. 

The history of magnetic field therapy will give you a better understanding of how it works and its benefits. But first, let’s discover what magnetic field therapy is at first glance.  


What is magnetic field therapy?

Magnetic field therapy is the use of magnets to treat diseases and enhance overall health. Practitioners think that when electromagnetic fields between the human body, the Earth, and others interact, it can affect humans physically and emotionally. Practitioners believe the human body’s electrical and electromagnetic fields must be balanced to keep it in an optimal state. 


Kinds of magnetic field therapy

Different types of magnets are used for magnetic field therapy. These include:

  • Static magnetic field therapy - This type uses static magnets; the kind of magnets you use to keep notes on the refrigerator. Those who undergo this therapy touch a magnet to their skin while wearing magnetized jewelry such as a bracelet. Sometimes, a mattress with a magnetic pad is used. 
  • Electrically charged magnetic therapy - Also called electromagnetic therapy, this type of therapy uses magnets that have an electric charge. It typically comes through an electric pulse.
  • Magnetic therapy with acupuncture - This therapy is just like the typical acupuncture, but magnets are also placed on areas of your skin an acupuncturist would focus on. 


Magnets in ancient medicine

The origins of magnetic field therapy trace back to ancient times. Ancient medicine was integrating magnetic therapies into medical therapies before the reason behind their advantages was even understood. 

According to ancient Hindu scriptures, the Vedas, Hindus used magnetized stones (lodestones) to treat diseases. Ancient Chinese treatise on health and disease “The Yellow Emperor’s Book of Internal Medicine” describes how Chinese physicians created written rules for the use of lodestones on acupuncture points. 

In ancient Egypt, there is evidence that physicians used lodestones on a regular basis, and that Cleopatra herself wore a magnet in an attempt to resist aging. The Father of Medicine himself, Hippocrates, is believed to have used magnets to relieve pain. 


Early and Mid-Modern history

In the early 16th century, the man credited as the founder of toxicology, Swiss physician Paracelsus, apparently used lodestones in treating seizures and mental disorders.  

In the 17th century, Sir William Gilbert, who made the first scholarly attempt to explain the nature of magnetism and its difference with static electricity, reportedly used magnets to alleviate the arthritic pains of Queen Elizabeth I.

In the latter half of the 18th century, Austrian physicist Anton Franz Mesmer coined the term “animal magnetism” referring to the human body’s own “magnetic energy” that he theorized. This theory would be later used by Scottish physician James Brain in his work on hypnosis. 

In the late 19th century, Russian engineer Georges Lakhovsky theorized that each cell had a frequency oscillating at a specific amplitude. He created the Multiple Wave Oscillator or Radio-Cellulo-Oscillator, which produced a broad range of therapeutic frequencies.


20th century

From the late 19th century to the early 20th century, famous Serbian-American innovator and engineer Nikola Tesla made plenty of contributions to the advancement of the alternating current electrical system and discovered the rotating magnetic field. He is known for inventing the Tesla Coil, an electrical resonant transformer circuit, but he also created a less popular electrical coil which became the standard magnetic loop coil used in all PEMF systems in the present day. 

The 20th century also saw the development of more advanced static magnetic therapies in the Czech Republic, where PEMF devices originate. In the early 1980s, PEMF devices were introduced in Hungary and therapy spread to other European countries. In the same decade, the first FDA-approved PEMF system used to treat non-union fractures was introduced. Still in the 1980s, the book “Body Electric: Electromagnetism and the Foundation of Life” by Dr. Robert Becker and Gary Selden described the body as an electromagnetic apparatus, which meant it’s receptive to magnetic field therapies.

Late in the 20th century, the use of magnetic fields played a significant role in Raymond Damadian’s invention of the first magnetic resonance scanning machine. In 1977, Damadian did the first full-body scan of a human being.


21st century

At the present, there is a fast-growing catalog of evidence to back the use of high-intensity PEMFs. High-intensity PEMF stimulation has shown to have beneficial effects similar to electroconvulsive therapy without the adverse effects that made the latter controversial. This type of PEMF therapy, known as transcranial magnetic stimulation, uses a high-intensity coil to create a magnetic field powerful enough to trigger a muscle contraction of the hand. The intensity is then kept or lowered before moving the coil to the area of the brain that requires treatment. There are studies being done with high-intensity magnetic fields to treat other parts of the body.

Moreover, other lower intensity PEMF systems are being developed and it’s being made easier in the US through the FDA’s recently updated stand. The FDA has permitted the marketing of PEMF systems without their approval given that the primary purpose is for the management of wellness.


The future of magnetic field therapy

Technologies such as magnetic resonance imaging and magnetic nerve stimulation have shown that magnetism has significant contributions to provide to the field of medicine. Research by neurologists at Vanderbilt Medical University throughout the 90s looked into the use of static magnets to treat pain, signaling that established paradigms are starting to shift.