Do Copper Bracelets Reduce Pain or Inflammation?

Folklore remedies for pain and inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis include the application of magnets and copper to the skin. Despite the popular use of devices containing magnets or copper for this purpose, little research has been conducted to evaluate the efficacy of such treatments. A randomized double-blind placebo controlled crossover trial was performed in 2013 that investigated copper bracelets or magnetic wrist straps.

RESULTS: 65 participants provided complete self-report outcome data for all devices, four participants provided partial data. Analysis of treatment outcomes did not reveal any statistically significant differences (P>0.05) between the four devices in terms of their effects on pain, inflammation, physical function, disease activity, or medication use.

CONCLUSIONS: Wearing a magnetic wrist strap or a copper bracelet did not appear to have any meaningful therapeutic effect, beyond that of a placebo, for alleviating symptoms and combating disease activity in rheumatoid arthritis.

SOURCE: Richmond SJ, Gunadasa S, Bland M, Macpherson H. Copper bracelets and magnetic wrist straps for rheumatoid arthritis–analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects: a randomised double-blind placebo controlled crossover trial. PLoS One. 2013 Sep 16;8(9):e71529.

A previous randomized control study was performed in 2004 in which pain did decrease, but it was unclear as to if it was related to a placebo effect.

RESULTS: Mean pain scores were reduced more in the standard magnet group than in the dummy group (mean difference 1.3 points, 95% confidence interval 0.05 to 2.55). Self reported blinding status did not affect the results. The scores for secondary outcome measures were consistent with the WOMAC A scores.

CONCLUSION: Pain from osteoarthritis of the hip and knee decreases when wearing magnetic bracelets. It is uncertain whether this response is due to specific or non-specific (placebo) effects.

SOURCE: Harlow T, Greaves C, White A, Brown L, Hart A, Ernst E. Randomised controlled trial of magnetic bracelets for relieving pain in osteoarthritis of the hip and knee. BMJ. 2004 Dec 18;329(7480):1450-4.