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Pivotal Health

Hazel and David Croucher

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HOW DO I CHOOSE THE RIGHT
MAGNETIC THERAPY?


This page covers the different kinds of commercial magnotherapy appliances available and what to look out for when buying - both the good and the bad. Further on, two sharp practises are discussed and I finish with my own recommendations. The sections are:

Magnetic jewellery: pretty, but is it useful?

Retail magnotherapy: shops, mail order and the internet

Therapists: are the products they sell useful?

Confusion and sharp practice: what’s a bi-polar magnet; how powerful is powerful?

So - what works?  How to spot a good system; Bioflow

 

WARNING!

As you read this, bear in mind that I’m a distributor of Bioflow magnotherapy because I am personally convinced by hard evidence that it is beyond question the best.  I’m aiming to be objective, though, so read on — then decide for yourself.


The One-Minute Read: see this first

So educate yourself by spending ten minutes reading this page, and avoid being duped.

What home-use magnetic therapy is available?

Apart from the electromagnotherapy equipment used in hospitals, all therapy devices use small static (or permanent) magnets.  The best of these, from only a few makers, are very powerful.  

It’s easiest to divide static magnetic products into three groups: jewellery with magnets, devices for consumer self-help and devices marketed for use by professional therapists.

Magnetic jewellery

At least some kinds of magnotherapy have been medically shown to be effective, so magnetic therapy resellers have often been bold (to be euphemistic!) in their claims of effectiveness in practice.  

As you might expect, adding cheap magnets to jewellery is a useful way to raise the retail price of a bangle at low cost to the maker, and with a big boost to profits if buyers get the (hinted) idea that it’s therapeutic.  In fact, no low-powered bangles have ever been shown by medical trial to be effective.

A fair proportion of costume jewellery bangles and necklaces have low-power magnets. They may be advertised with comments such as, “Magnetic therapy has been shown to be effective.  Our beautiful bangles have a powerful magnet in each link.”  In this way, they don’t exactly claim effectiveness, but hint that you can link their product to the statement.

Results or even just announcements of trials on, for example, hospital equipment, might be published nearby in a catalogue with no mention of the kind of therapy trialled, but linked by proximity to the product on the page. Maybe you’re supposed to get the idea that, “If doctors are using it, why not me?”. Most resellers, though, aren’t quite this dishonest.  They just advertise that their bangles contain magnets and leave you to make your own association.

A recent addition to magnetic jewellery is the bangle with many haematite beads, which have become much cheaper to obtain from low labour cost countries.  The beads (which are actually ferrite, not haematite) are magnetised in modern equipment, whether or not they are called ‘natural magnets'.  They are of moderate power, though they’re unlikely to keep their magnetic flux as long as the better magnets.  So, if there are plenty of magnetic beads among the rest and they don’t shield their flux by touching each other, they should be more effective than the average therapy bracelet. The bangles themselves are more than usually attractive as costume jewellery.

The haematite bead bangles that I’ve seen in supermarkets, health stores and pharmacies look likely to be short life (the elastic cords will wear and break), so if you’re satisfied with them for the price as costume jewellery, they will be good value to you.  I have met a few people who are sure they have got some pain relief from such bangles, though most wearers I’ve met haven’t found any discernable effect.  The medical trials on similarly-powered bangles have never shown any proven help.

Retail magnotherapy

Shop-bought

In many countries, larger retail outlets stock fast-selling magnetic therapy products from a large wholesaler or manufacturer.  They will most likely be either bangles sold on the jewellery counter or straps, insoles, etc., placed among medical appliance such as bunion relief, copper bangles and travel sickness depressors.  There will rarely be any medical claims made (except maybe by oblique reference) and never by the store, which will simply display literature and cards provided by the supplier.  A few large retailers have their own brands.  The comments above about jewellery still apply.

Independent New Age retailers, health stores and herbalists are likely to stock similar products, but are more likely to treat them as serious therapy and recommend them as such.  After all, these stores would not expect conventional medical backing for most of their other goods, either!  As with magnetic jewellery, there is plenty of casual anecdotal evidence of effectiveness (which might suggest that only people who got help spread the word), but the medical evidence from trials is inconclusive or negative, despite many trials.  My own experience is that I’ve met a few people who have convinced me that their bangle is effective for them.  All of these wore multi-link bracelets with at least fifteen magnets of more than usual power, one or two to each link.

Mail Order and the Internet

Companies selling magnotherapy products by mail order or internet (often both) tend to make more serious claims about their products.  If they are larger operations with catalogues, they will have a wide variety of styles and appliances and, even if they make some of the products themselves, will often also stock a range of items from other makers — usually, but not disclosed, in China.  As a search will show, the internet also has many smaller resellers, who may make claims for the products that volume makers or importers would not dare to publish for fear of litigation or prosecution.  If their publicity material and website are well-designed, these small resellers might be hard to distinguish from the larger companies.

Products sold by post (and newspaper advertising) or on the web tend to fall into two groups: therapeutic jewellery; and medically-influenced appliances such as knee straps, mattresses, pillows and plasters, which are intended to look like prescribed medical appliances and more often than not contain ineffective low-power magnets despite a high cost.  An exception is the few companies that market large, very strong neodymium magnets in plain or no wrappers, to be fixed against the skin over points of pain. These tend to be expensive: 10 to 20 times the wholesale price of the magnets used. Just look at a magnet wholesaler’s website to see how the price is loaded!  Nevertheless, these are far more likely to be of benefit, judging from incidental evidence in a few medical trials.

On the whole, resellers and catalogue producers lean heavily on two selling tactics: plenty of customer testimonials, and association with medical evidence for unrelated kinds of magnetic therapy.  

Using testimonials is a valid tactic, if not too much is claimed.  The problem is that you rarely get to know what proportion of customers find success.  If the therapy works (or is a good placebo) for one in a hundred customers and a hundredth of these can be encouraged to write in or talk on the phone, there’ll be enough genuine letters for publication.  But that’s one in 100 — a low success rate!  You really want to know how likely it is that you will get help, and for that you need to know the proportionate success.  And that’s the one thing that sellers rarely publish!

A second trick in promotional material is to describe successful magnetic therapy of a different kind, often totally unrelated to the one being sold, in a panel on the page or nearby.  You might then unconsciously associate this success with the product.  Look out for this cheat when you’s browsing!  In particular, several retailers quote the Peninsula Study as a proof of their own products’ effectiveness, when it applies only to the patented and very different Bioflow design.

A few companies simply market devices of their own design specifically for therapy. They tend to be very much higher power than the average, and expensive. Ecoflow, whose Bioflow products I sell, is one of these companies - see below.

Therapists

A small number of physiotherapists and sports medicine physicians use static magnet therapy, usually as an supplement to electromagnotherapy treatment. In addition, alternative therapists will sometimes apply magnets while giving other treatment. The magnets used are normally exceptionally powerful and placed in groups across the area to be treated.  I could not discover any research to test the efficacy of independent use of these more powerful magnets, which are available from only a few retailers.  My own experience suggests that they should have some success.

This therapy can be bought by and applied by anybody.  In fact, the magnets used and often sold by these specialists are available directly from magnet retailers at much lower prices. It’s noticeable that while the wholesale cost of neodymium magnets has dropped steeply in the last decade, the prices charged for most therapy magnets have almost always risen with inflation.  Ecoflow’s Bioflow range is an exception, with only an average 6% rise over the last 14 years.

Confusion and Sharp Practice

What do sellers mean by ‘bipolar devices’ and ‘magnet power’?

There is much confusion over these two issues, and dodgy retailers exploit it shamelessly!  

Bogus Claim 1: what is bipolar?

In medical use, bipolar is used to refer to the north and south poles in a magnetic field being close together in the area of treatment.  So, for the flat magnets usually used for therapy, it means that a north pole and a south pole touch the skin next to each other, either by bending a magnetic field (as in the Bioflow CRP system) or by using adjacent, but not touching, magnets.  If you want some examples of this, do an internet search for bipolar magnet and you will see references in scientific articles to this use.  There will also be many claims for and against the idea, mostly based on poor science!  So it’s worth noting that nearly all of the medical trials which have been successful have used powerful bipolar magnet systems.  

Beware though of the retailer who, knowing that some bipolar devices are proven effective, will say if challenged that their magnet has two poles, one at each end, so is bipolar rather than being a monopole.  Well, yes!  But all magnets have two poles, so this is sophistry. Putting an alternating series of north and south poles together on your skin is the real bipolar — or using switching poles (pulsing), as electromagnotherapy machines and the Bioflow CRP system do.

Bogus Claim 2: magnet power

Quoting magnet power is another way to puff a product.  Magnet makers usually quote the intrinsic magnetic power of each material they use, as well as the magnetic flux at the surface of each completed magnet.  They’re not the same. Whatever the size or strength of a magnet made from the material, the flux density of the material will not change. But the same unit (Gauss or milli-Tesla) is also used for the strength of the magnetic field in each spot around the magnet - and that reduces drastically as the spot gets further from the magnet.  Both the flux density of the material and the size of the magnet affect its magnetic field strength.  The distance of the point of action from the surface of the magnet also drops off drastically as they move apart.  Even a 2mm gap can more than half the field strength.  All the confusion this leads to can be exploited by dodgy sellers to give a false impression.

For example, a neodymium magnet made from N35 alloy should have a material power rating of about 2,200 gauss (this is the figure quoted by most sellers) and a theoretical core field strength of 12,000 gauss (a few naughty sellers will quote this, as it’s the biggest number).  These figures are the same whatever the size of the magnet - they’s connected to the magnetic material, not the actual magnet.

So let’s look at a real magnet.  The 17mm x 2mm disc of Bioflow’s basic CRP magnet is made of N35 neodymium boron steel alloy, power rating typically 2,200 gauss when magnetized.  The field strength at its surface may be 3,000 gauss, and on the outside of its plastic or steel cover — next to the skin — only 1,800 gauss. Yet it’s just about the most powerful magnet you can get for therapy.  A typical, tiny 3mm x 0.5mm bangle magnet made from the same N35 alloy will still have a 2,200 gauss material power rating, yet probably a field at the skin of only 90 gauss.  As you’d expect from common sense, the useful power is proportional to the size of the magnet. Guess which figure the dodgy sellers quote: the high number or the real, low one?  You can see the opportunity for confusing claims.  

For this reason, only compare power claims between products in the same catalogue and only then if you trust the seller to have checked that they are consistent.  After all, the bigger the magnet, the more effective, but few sellers tell you the magnets’ size (or even know it!)  A better rule of thumb for useful power is how much weight of steel the magnet can pick up (or how many recent UK copper pennies – they are 10% iron). This is much more consistent when comparing the effectiveness of magnets, but few resellers let you see this comparison between their different products.

If this seems confusing, a fair comparison is the ‘power’, the strength, of alcoholic drinks. Beer is typically 5% alcohol and no matter how big the bottle and how much alcohol is in it, the beer is still 5% alcohol.  This is like magnetic materials, which keep the same material magnetic flux no matter how big the magnet is.  So just as it’s nonsense to say “It doesn’t matter how much beer I drink, I’ll get just as drunk on a mouthful as eight pints,” it’s also silly to say, “It doesn’t matter how big a magnet is, I’ll get the same results from a small one as a big one.”  But that’s just what a lot of sellers are saying when they quote the gauss rating of the material, not the field strength next to your skin.

When you’re checking, simply ask the retailer, “You say it’s a 2000 gauss magnet.  Is that the strength next to my skin, or the strength inside the case, or the power rating of the material?”  Betcha they’ve no idea!  Yet it’s a key question for you, the customer, if you want to know what you’re buying.  Never buy without a chance to either check and compare for yourself, or return the goods for a full refund if you’re not satisfied.

So - What Works?

Effectiveness

My experience as a retailer is that, out of the many people wearing magnetic therapy products that I’ve met, only a very few could convince me that they got any real benefits from their device.  I use a simple test: “If you left it off by accident, how long would it take you to notice it was missing?  How would you know?” If the answer is a medical one such as, “My hip started to hurt, then I realised I’d left it off,” then the device works for that person!  All of those I’ve asked who passed this test had at least ten, higher-powered neodymium magnets in the product; usually over 15.  Or, more commonly, a Bioflow CRP high-power bipolar system.

Class I Medical Devices

Do note that any magnetic products which come with medical claims, or claim to help relieve pain or symptoms in people, are required in most Western countries to be labelled as Class 1 Medical Devices.  It shows that the manufacturer certifies that they are safe in use, not that they are effective.  So being labelled ‘Class 1 Medical Device’ is not an advantage of the product — it’s a legally required statement that it won’t hurt you.  It’s good to see that a product is marked as ‘Class 1’, so it’s tested safe, but if a seller tries to claim this as a benefit, run away! They’re either dishonest or incompetent.

Bioflow

I’ve left my own products till last because you need to understand how different they are from the others to see why I favour them.  The Bioflow Company discovered the Bioflow CRP principle by accident, when people constantly handling their Thermoflow ionising fuel saver were found to be getting pain relief.  It is a static magnet device which uses the same principle as the electromagnotherapy machines in hospitals. Because it’s now patented for therapy, the idea can’t be copied by other makers.  They’ve had to look for reasons why theirs are just as good, simply to help their marketing.  

What makes Bioflow CRP (Central Reverse Polarity) different?  First, like the hospital machines, Bioflow uses a super-powerful magnetic field.  Bioflow’s very large neodymium magnet has 20 to 30 times the strength of ordinary therapy bangles’ magnets.  In fact, the Bioflow’s inventor deliberately chose the magnet power so that the field has the same magnetic flux where your arteries lie, just under the skin inside your wrist, as the typical flux in a hospital therapy machine - about 800 gauss, 80 milli-Tesla.  

Second, the CRP unit has a steel shell surrounding the disc magnet, except on the inside. The shell bends the outer (south) pole into a ring around the skin-side (north) pole to give the essential bipolar effect.  Blood flowing past the CRP unit crosses south-north-south.  It is this rapid flux-changing that makes the therapeutic difference.  The page ‘How Bioflow Works’ gives more details and some diagrams.  In a 2004 osteoarthritis medical trial, the CRP system tested is the only one ever to show positive results for a wrist magnet.

The Bioflow system, then, was purposely designed to mimic the action of those well-proven hospital electromagnotherapy machines.  I like to compare the effect to battery charging. You can either get a ‘boost charge’ (a 20-30 minute treatment in hospital each day) or use a ‘trickle charge’ for a longer time (wearing a Bioflow for most or all of each day).  I reckon the end result is similar.  

When beginning therapy, we generally encourage people to get a wristband first, because by conditioning your blood it works on the whole body.  If this doesn’t give enough relief for the worst pain, spot treatment can be added.  Most of our customers also get ‘bonus help’. Their Bioflow wristband clears up or alleviates pains or problems that they hadn’t expected help for, as well as the condition they bought it to help.

Bioflow is one of the more expensive systems, but in my experience the difference is this: about 1 in 5 of the wearers of the best of other appliances seem to get useful results — and that’s being generous about what counts as results.  My Bioflow customers claim results 19 times out of 20 — and I offer them their money back shortly before their 90-day trial is due to finish.  I want them to be sure whether or not they want to return it and claim a refund. Less than 5% do.  This is far, far better than ordinary therapy bangles and straps.

I find the case for Bioflow proven in real, human conditions.

To see why I think that Bioflow completely outclasses alternatives, go to
The Bioflow Advantage.

If you want to know how Bioflow works, go to
How Bioflow Works.

To look at the different models, go to
Bioflow Models.


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