Research shows copper bracelets ineffective for arthritis

Posted Oct 16, 2009 by Gemma Fox
Researchers at the University of York in the UK say that the use of copper bracelets and magnetic wrist straps are useless for people trying to relieve arthritic pain.
In the first tightly controlled trial looking at the alternative therapies it was shown that there were no benefits in their use for pain relief or relieving stiffness.
Forty-five people took part in the study and tested a copper bracelet, two magnetic wrist straps and also a demagnetised version of the wrist strap.
One arthritis charity went as far to say that people should not waste their money on these alternative therapies.
The leader of the study, Stewart Richmond, a research fellow in the Department of Health Studies said that there had only been one other randomised controlled trial on copper bracelets that compared the treatment against the placebo and that had taken place in the 1970s.
The forty-five people taking part in the trial were aged 50 or over and all diagnosed with osteoarthritis. They each wore the four devices in a random order over a period of 16 weeks.
Reporting in the journal, Complementary Therapies in Medicines, researchers reported that all of the devices proved ineffective in terms of pain, physical function and stiffness.
Mr Richmond said, "It appears that any perceived benefit obtained from wearing a magnetic or copper bracelet can be attributed to psychological placebo effects. People tend to buy them when they are in a lot of pain, then when the pain eases off over time they attribute this to the device. However, our findings suggest that such devices have no real advantage over placebo wrist straps that are not magnetic and do not contain copper."
Costing in the range of £25 to £65 ($40 to $106) for the wrist straps the market for them is worth billions world wide. As Mr Richmonds points out, the marketing of these devices is more commonly aimed at the vulnerable elderly population.
The charity, Arthritis Research Campaign, is currently in the process of compiling a report on the effectiveness of complementary therapies and arthritis.
Jane Tadman, from the charity states that even though many people wear copper bracelets there is no current research that supports their use. She said, "Although there is a big public appetite for non-drug treatments from arthritis patients, we would not encourage them to spend a lot of money on products for which there is very little scientific evidence."