Magnets Unplugged

Is the force field for real?

Like many magnet aficionados, though, Lane is skeptical about magnetic therapies different from his own and especially questions their pain-relieving powers.

Manhasset-based physical therapist Murray Olansky is similarly dubious about some claims. Olansky uses what he calls "rare earth magnets" to reduce patients' pain and swelling in his practice, but dismisses magnetic products made by Nikken, a Japanese company that uses a pyramid sales scheme and relatively weak magnets: "Most of the positive effects of those are psychological rather than physiological."

Olansky and Lane do agree on one thing: Magnets have relatively few side effects. Most magnet mongers warn against using their product around a pacemaker, which it can disrupt, as well as during pregnancy. Lane also suggests separating powerful magnets with cloth, so skin doesn't get pinched between them.

illustration by Heath Hinegardner

But on the whole, magnets don't seem terribly risky. "There have really been no harmful effects of therapeutic magnets," says Olansky. Almost no effect at all, you might say. Unless, of course, you consider that detrimental pull they can have on the wallet.

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