For many people who live with arthritis any relief from pain is welcomed. A traditional remedy that people often turn to is the use of copper bracelets
Researchers at the Department of Health Sciences at York have carried out the first randomised controlled trial to study the effects of copper bracelets and magnetic wrist straps on rheumatoid arthritis, 70 patients with active symptoms each wore four different devices over a five-month period, reporting on their pain, disability, and medication use throughout the study. Participants also provided blood samples, after wearing each device for five weeks, in order to monitor changes in inflammation.
According to new findings from the study, copper bracelets and magnet wrist straps have no real effect on pain, swelling, or disease progression in rheumatoid arthritis.
Dr Stewart Richmond, a Research Fellow in the Department of Health Sciences at York, who led the study, said:
“It’s a shame that these devices don’t seem to have any genuine benefit. They’re so simple and generally safe to use. But what these findings do tell us is that people who suffer with rheumatoid arthritis may be better off saving their money, or spending it on other complementary interventions, such as dietary fish oils for example, which have far better evidence for effectiveness. Warning people who suspect they may have rheumatoid arthritis to consult their GP and seek early medical treatment, rather than placing faith in such devices, is also important in helping to avoid long-term joint damage resulting from uncontrolled inflammation.”
Dr Richmond suggests there are two main reasons why wearers sometimes report benefit:
“Firstly, devices such as these provide a placebo effect for users who believe in them; secondly, people normally begin wearing them during a flare up period and then as their symptoms subside naturally over time they confuse this with a therapeutic effect. Pain varies greatly over time in conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, and the way we perceive pain can be altered significantly by the power of the mind”.
The paper ‘Copper bracelets and magnetic wrist straps for rheumatoid arthritis – analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects: a randomised double-blind placebo controlled crossover trial’ is published in PLOS ONE at http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0071529
The Department of Health Sciences at the University of York
16 September 2013