Magnetic therapy for osteoporosis is a treatment that can help bones regenerate, improving density and increasing their minerals and mass. This can help prevent fractures later in life.

The technology has shown promising results, but research is ongoing to find the optimum dosages for maximum benefit.

Osteoporosis is a condition where a person’s bones reduce in density and mass, resulting in fragile bones that can break easily. The quality and structure of bones change over time, increasing the risk of fractures.

Fractures can occur in any bone but are more likely to occur in those within the spine, wrist, or hip. If an older adult unexpectedly breaks a bone, this can indicate the presence of osteoporosis as a first symptom.

Medical professionals have used magnets for a long time to treat ailments. Therapeutic magnets are often neodymium or rare earth magnets. Researchers have studied their use in healthcare, including for:

However, studies suggest magnets are not useful for every condition.

Researchers are examining the use of magnetic therapies in osteoporosis, where healthcare professionals activate magnetic fields to stimulate bone cell regeneration — a process known as osteoblasts. They are also examining the role of magnets in inhibiting osteoclasts, a type of bone cell that breaks down bone tissue.

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The use of magnetic fields for bone health is a relatively new study. Studies show promising results in bone regeneration through the use of magnets alongside other therapies.

All organisms on the planet are subject to a magnetic field. Cells, tissues, and organs generate their own magnetic fields, and practitioners can use external magnets to interact with these internal fields for therapeutic use. Research suggests weak magnets can increase the numbers, direction, and movement of osteoblasts, which can trigger new bone growth. The intensity of magnetic fields will have different effects on the body.

There are two main types of magnetic therapy:

  • Static magnetic fields (SMF): The magnetic field is in varying strengths and polarity according to the size and properties of the magnet. A person wears the magnet around the wrist or as a shoe insert.
  • Pulsed electromagnetic fields (PEMF): An electric current and power source allows for the alteration of electromagnetic fields, which can affect biological processes in the body.

Animal models and studies using human cells have shown that magnets can affect bone growth. However, some researchers have questioned how medical professionals can use the therapy effectively when they do not fully understand how the treatment works.

Studies on applying magnetic treatments for osteoporosis have focused on the optimum frequency, treatment period, and the amount of exposure necessary for optimal healing.

Some studies have reported success with their trials. A 2017 study compared the effects of whole-body vibration therapy with magnetic therapy on bone mineral density for individuals aged 60-75 years with osteoporosis. The individuals received treatment with supplements, osteoporosis medication, and one of the two therapies, with a third group only receiving osteoporosis medication and supplements. The two groups receiving the therapies, medication, and supplements had increased bone mineral density.

A second 2017 study in older women found that PEMFS are able to enhance the growth of osteoblasts, which help strengthen bones and inhibit osteoclasts that destroy bone. However, the researchers acknowledged that more research is necessary to understand the mechanisms that cause these effects.

Conventional treatments for osteoporosis include:

  • Supplements: Including calcium and vitamin D.
  • Bisphosphonates: These drugs help slow bone loss. They may include:
    • alendronate (Fosamax)
    • risedronate (Actonel)
    • ibandronate (Boniva)
    • zoledronic acid (Recast)
  • Estrogen replacement therapy: This treatment decreases the risk of osteoporosis but can increase the likelihood of breast cancer, stroke, blood clots, and heart attacks when a person receives it in combination with progestin. Estrogen as a single therapy can increase the risk of stroke.
  • Selective estrogen receptor modulators: This treatment helps enable the positive effects of estrogen on bones while minimizing the risks. However, it comes with an elevated risk of blood clots and stroke.
  • Parathyroid hormone (Teriparatide): People can take this daily injection for up to 2 years. However, those who have had radiation therapy or high parathyroid hormone levels should not take this drug.
  • Denosumab (Prolix): This new immunotherapy drug is for individuals who have a high risk of bone fractures. People usually take it as an injection every 6 months, and doctors prescribe it to those at risk of bone loss due to cancer treatment.

Regular physical activity can also help strengthen the bones.

A person who has a pacemaker, diabetes implant, or cochlear implant should discuss their circumstances with a healthcare professional before undergoing magnetic therapy.

Researchers have been cautious regarding the use of magnetic fields on humans. The most common medical use of magnets is the MRI scan. However, there are guidelines regarding exposure for both workers and people undergoing them.

Static magnetic fields do not emit electromagnetic radiation, so experts consider them reasonably safe.

A 2019 study involving mice looked at the effects of high-static magnetic fields in animals living within the chamber of a superconducting magnet. There was no notable effect on the rodents.

Research into pulsing electromagnetic fields also found that they did not increase genetic toxicity and toxicity to cells. However, studies into how the fields affect the heart are ongoing. Some believe they could affect fetuses during pregnancy.

The PEMFs may also cause inflammatory cells to provoke an immune response and may have links to melatonin disruption, which may impact sleep.

Side effects of using magnets in therapy are minimal. They may include:

  • skin symptoms, including redness, tingling, vibration, or burning sensations
  • hypersensitivity to chemical stimuli
  • blurred vision

However, experts consider static magnetic fields to be very safe.

That said, pulsing electromagnetic fields may have links to cancer. Other risks may include depression, seizures, and neurodegenerative diseases.

A person considering PEMF therapy should discuss the risks and side effects with a healthcare professional.

There is no cure for osteoporosis. A person should follow the directions from their healthcare professional to keep their bones strong and healthy for as long as possible.

The treatment period for magnetic therapy may depend on many factors. Some treatments have lasted from 8 weeks to 8 years. A person’s condition will often dictate the length of treatment.

In light of some observable side effects, a person should be able to carry out their usual activities alongside treatment.

Studies have shown that the medical application of magnets can affect bone density and mass. However, not all institutions offer magnetic therapy for osteoporosis because the treatment requires special equipment.

A person can usually undergo magnetic therapy and continue with their day-to-day activities. Additionally, individuals who have or wear electronic medical devices, such as pacemakers, that may interact with magnetic therapy should consult a healthcare professional.

Research is ongoing into magnetic therapy to determine optimum outcomes.