Q: Will wearing a copper or magnetic bracelet help my arthritis?
A: Copper bracelets and magnetic objects are ancient remedies for arthritis.
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Magnets were long believed to have healing power, and the discovery of copper in the blood fueled a belief that rheumatism stems from a copper deficiency.
However, two British studies — involving 45 osteoarthritis patients and, later, 346 rheumatoid arthritis patients — found that magnetic wrist strips and copper bracelets worked no better than dummy devices (placebos).
The placebo effect, which occurs when people expect and believe a treatment to work, can be powerful. To rule this out, researchers routinely compare treatments to placebos.
Although the researchers found that copper bracelets and magnetic wrist strips had no meaningful effect on joint pain, swelling or the progression of arthritis, the devices are inexpensive and have no major side effects.
That said, rheumatoid arthritis responds better to earlier treatment, so don’t wait too long to see a doctor if you happen to develop symptoms.
—Rheumatologist Margaret Tsai, MD