By Jenny Hope
Last updated at 9:33 AM on 17th October 2009
Popular: A 'therapeutic' bracelet of the type popular with thousands, which could actually do nothing to help arthritis
Copper and magnetic bracelets worn by thousands to alleviate arthritis are useless, researchers claim.
The trial - the first scientifically-based study of its kind - raises doubts over the multimillion-pound alternative pain therapy industry.
Magnetic therapy and copper replacement are said to help a variety of ailments, including chronic joint pain caused by osteoarthritis and other musculoskeletal disorders.
Manufacturers suggest the condition can be alleviated by re-balancing the body's magnetic field or topping up depleted copper levels though the skin.
Many prefer to use the bracelets rather than drugs because there are no side effects.
But researchers from the universities of York, Hull, Durham, along with the NHS, found there was no difference in symptoms whether patients wore magnetic straps or de-magnetised ones.
They asked 45 arthritis sufferers aged 50 and over to wear four wrist straps in turn over a 16-week period.
They tested out a commercially available magnetic wrist strap, a weak magnetic wrist strap, a de-magnetised wrist strap and a copper bracelet.
Their pain levels were rated on an internationally recognised score index and their use of medication noted, says a report published in the latest issue of the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine.
No difference was found in terms of their effect on pain between the four devices, with similar results found for joint stiffness and need for medication.
Stewart Richmond, of York University, who led the trial, 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.'
Dr Richmond added that although some arthritis sufferers do have lower copper levels, this is an effect of the condition rather than a cause.
Magnetic and copper bracelets typically cost between £30 and £50, with the industry worldwide worth around £2.45billion.
Dr Richmond said: 'I realise this may dispel the myth and puncture a few balloons, but I don't want to see people wasting their money.'
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1221015/Copper-bracelet-arthritis-cure-myth-say-scientists-casting-doubt-multi-million-pound-alternative-healthcare-industry.html#ixzz0UDimr2QG