Do Magnetic Necklaces Relieve Neck Pain?

People often turn to alternative therapies like magnetic necklaces in hopes of finding relief from stubborn neck pain. But is there any truth to the claims that these necklaces can provide pain relief?

What is a Magnetic Necklace?

A magnetic necklace is a piece of jewelry, usually a pendant necklace, that contains permanent magnets. The magnets are often made of materials like neodymium or samarium-cobalt due to their strong magnetic field. The necklace positions the magnets directly over areas like the upper chest, shoulders, and neck when worn.

Manufacturers claim the magnetic field penetrates deep into neck tissues to improve circulation, reduce inflammation, alter cell function, and block pain signals. However, studies on how static magnets actually interact with the body are limited.

Potential Mechanisms for Pain Relief

There are several proposed ways magnetic necklaces may help provide pain relief:

  • Increased blood flow: The magnets may dilate blood vessels by attracting blood cells containing iron. Improved circulation brings fresh oxygen and nutrients to neck tissues and reduces inflammation.
  • Improved cellular function: The magnetic field may change cell membrane permeability, allowing better transport of ions and nutrients into cells and waste removal.
  • Blocked pain signals: Magnets may stabilize nerve cell membranes and inhibit pain signal transmission from damaged tissues to the brain.
  • Muscle relaxation: Some companies claim the magnets release muscle knots and tension in the neck and shoulders associated with pain.

However, these mechanisms have not been definitively proven in human trials. There is also debate around whether static magnets can produce fields strong enough to deeply penetrate neck tissues.

What Does the Research Say?

There have been few high-quality studies specifically analyzing magnetic necklaces for neck pain. Most research has involved small sample sizes and limited controls. However, some findings suggest potential benefits:

  • A 2012 study had 47 patients with chronic neck pain wear a magnetic necklace for 12 weeks. Researchers observed significant decreases in pain, muscle tenderness, and disability.
  • A 2009 study found magnetic necklaces improved pain and mobility better than placebo necklaces in 34 patients with cervical spondylosis.
  • A 2008 study in patients with neck and shoulder myofascial pain found magnetic necklaces reduced pain and increased range of motion.

While promising, larger double-blinded studies are needed. A 2015 review concluded there is moderate evidence that magnetic necklaces provide mild short-term pain relief, but effects beyond that are still unproven.

Potential Drawbacks and Precautions

Magnetic necklaces appear relatively safe when used properly, but there are some potential drawbacks:

  • The magnets can interfere with medical devices like pacemakers if worn too close to the body.
  • Magnets may cause issues if accidentally ingested.
  • They may lead to skin irritation or allergic reactions in sensitive people.
  • Effects during pregnancy are unknown, so use is not recommended.
  • There are no standards for optimal magnet strength and duration of use.
  • Benefits seem temporary and neck pain often returns once use stops.
  • Magnetic necklaces are not a cure and should not replace medical treatment if you have severe, chronic neck pain.

It’s also important to have realistic expectations. While some studies are optimistic, the overall evidence is limited. Any pain relief from magnetic necklaces is likely to be modest and temporary. For long-term relief, you still need to address the root causes of your neck pain as well.

Talk to your doctor before trying magnetic necklaces if you have any concerns. But they may be worth a try if you have mild, occasional neck pain and want to test complementary therapy options. Just be wary of relying solely on the magnets as a “miracle cure” for serious neck problems.