From Exposing Spiritualistic Practices in Healing
By Edwin Noyes M.D.

A long-time patient of mine, a retired nurse and institutional church worker, sat on the exam table in my office. He complained of pain in the feet. I removed a shoe and found magnets inserted in various locations in his shoe. This nurse and his wife informed me that, that very day they were to have delivered to their home, a mattress and pillows filled with magnets. Earlier that week they had attended a special retreat for retired church workers. A demonstration of the supposed health benefits of magnets had been made at the retired workers retreat by a member of the church who was in the business of selling magnets. I shared with these friends my concern and gave them some references to study and urged them to re-think their choice. The mattress and pillows were sent back.

The use of magnets has become popular in the treatment of pains and aches and a variety of other distresses. It is a billion dollar industry. Magnets are being used in sports; housewives have also been convinced of its value. Magnets are applied to various places on the body and left for hours or days. They are placed in shoes, in pillows, in mattresses. This practice is supposed to make one stronger, increase circulation, and generally restore health. There is not a shred of scientific evidence to support these claims, but that does not seem to matter as long as someone testifies as to how much it helped them. There seems to be no concern that the magnet might create some abnormal function. The belief is that it can only benefit.

What seems silly and harmless, except for the money transferred into someone else’s hands, is really a technique quite like the others we have been studying. There may be no talk of balancing energy, yet it is implied that the application of magnets at various places on the body corrects unbalanced polarity. There may be claims made that the influence of the earth’s magnetic field has been altered in some way and by use of magnets this imbalance will be corrected. Consider this statement from a magnetic healer:

Magnet therapy focuses on electromagnetic energy surrounding and infusing the body and works with this energy in much the same as subtle energy practices work with subtle energy. 1) New Age Encyclopedia, Gale Research, Detroit MI, (1990), p. 28.

A study was done on the use of magnets in treating plantar fasciitis of the heel by Mark Winemiller MD at the Mayo Clinic. 96 people with heel pain participated in the study. Fifty percent received magnets in their shoes and fifty percent were given fake magnets. At the end of three months there was no difference between the two groups. There was improvement in both groups but no difference one from the other. 2) Reuters Health Information (2005-09-21): Magnetized insoles don’t appear to relieve foot pain, eline/links/20050921 eline003.html (archived).

In September 25, 2007 the Canadian Medical Association Journal carried an abstract reporting a meta-analysis study done on the use of static magnet therapy by Max Pittler M.D. and colleagues at the Peninsula Medical School of the University of Exeter and Plymouth. This meta- analysis contained 29 studies and found “no convincing evidence to suggest that static magnets might be effective for pain relief.” The studies looked at foot pain, fibromyalgia, lower back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, diabetic peripheral neuropathy or delayed onset muscle soreness. Results were mixed for osteoarthritis so no conclusions were made for this disorder.

History tells us of the use of magnetism millennia ago. Probably the first electrified substance (static electricity, by rubbing) used in treatment was amber, then lodestone—ferrous oxide was found in Magnesia (Western Turkey) as a natural magnet. Magnetic substances were carved in the shape of body organs and placed over the organ as therapy. At various times in the past, magnetic therapy became popular and then faded. In the 16th century, a historically famous physician, Paracelsus, used magnetism in his treatments. Magnetism was believed to be the same power as in hypnosis.

Franz Anton Mesmer (1733–1815), is known as the father of modern hypnotism. He graduated and received his degree in medicine from the University of Vienna in 1766. In his book, On the Influence of the Planets, he proposed:

That stroking diseased bodies with magnets might be curative. 3) New Age Encyclopedia, Gale Research, Detroit MI, (1990), p. 29.

He affected his first cure by passing magnets over the body.

…Like Paracelsus, Mesmer believed that the microcosm of the human body reflects the macrocosm of the universe; he also believed that the corresponding parts are tied together by a universal magnetic fluid….

…In 1776, Mesmer met Gassner and became convinced that all of Gassner’s cures (passing hands across a body without magnets) could be explained by his own theory of animal magnetism. Before this meeting, Mesmer had achieved cures by (passing magnets over the patient’s body), but the fact that Gassner achieved the same results with his bare hands led Mesmer to wonder whether the healing power might reside in the human body itself, rather than in the magnets; dispensing with the magnets, he too began to pass his hands alone over patient’s bodies. 4) Ibid.

When these practices eventually progressed on to hypnotic trances and psychic experiences, magnets were discarded.

The above comments are not to be confused with the use of magnetism such as the MRI diagnostic machine, and the use of pulsating electromagnetic field about a fractured bone to promote healing. These methods work on known laws of science. It is interesting to note that no one has ever heard of a person being healed of a disorder by being placed for an hour in an MRI diagnostic machine, though it is one the most powerful magnets on earth. Powerful magnets that are electrically pulsated are used occasionally to treat the most severe forms of depression. There can be benefit from this treatment. It is not to be confused with the popular use of magnets in shoes, pillows, mattresses, etc.

This comment bears repeating:

Not a few in this Christian age and Christian nation resort to evil spirits, rather than trust to the power of the living God. The mother watching by the sickbed of her child, exclaims, ‘I can do no more. Is there no physician who has power to restore my child?’ She is told of the wonderful cures performed by some clairvoyant or magnetic healer, and she trusts her dear one to his charge, placing it as verily in the hands of Satan as if he were standing by her side. In many instances the future life of the child is controlled by a satanic power which it seems impossible to break. 5) White, E.G., Counsels on Health, Pacific Press Pub. Assn., Mountain View, CA, (1951), p. 454

An agent of the great deceiver will say and do anything to gain his object. It matters little whether he calls himself a spiritualist, an ‘electric physician,’ or a ‘magnetic healer.’ By specious pretenses he wins the confidence of the unwary. He pretends to read the life history and to understand all the difficulties and afflictions of those who resort to him. 6) White, E.G., II Mind, Character, Personality, Southern Pub. Assn., (1977), p. 700.


1 New Age Encyclopedia, Gale Research, Detroit MI, (1990), p. 28.
2 Reuters Health Information (2005-09-21): Magnetized insoles don’t appear to relieve foot pain, eline/links/20050921 eline003.html (archived).
3 New Age Encyclopedia, Gale Research, Detroit MI, (1990), p. 29.
4 Ibid.
5 White, E.G., Counsels on Health, Pacific Press Pub. Assn., Mountain View, CA, (1951), p. 454
6 White, E.G., II Mind, Character, Personality, Southern Pub. Assn., (1977), p. 700.