Mild adverse reactions to typical, home-based magnetic therapy do happen, and should be acknowledged when using pulsed magnetic field therapy systems. Because magnetic therapies have such a wide array of actions within the body, it is not uncommon to experience some discomfort, especially when treatment has just begun. It is our experience that these reactions happen about 5% of the time, and tend to be more common when the entirety of the body is treated, as opposed to local treatments. Such reactions are commonly seen in other therapies, including the Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction seen with antibiotics and aggravations in homeopathy, acupuncture, deep tissue massage, and so on.
Most of these reactions are mild and temporary. In individuals with electrical hypersensitivity and electromagnetic hypersensitivity, these reactions are more common and more uncomfortable. Rarely does magnetic therapy have to be discontinued as a result. Most of the time, small adjustments in the treatment protocol will resolve the issues.
Magnetic therapies can alter circulation, stimulate cell and tissue repair, stimulate nerve cells, cause relaxation, affect blood pressure and heart rate, alter the absorption of medications and nutrients, affect acupuncture energy movement, stimulate vision changes, among many other actions. So, overreactions by the body, perceived or measurable, do happen.
Sudden increases in circulation, especially in ischemic tissues (areas with restricted or reduced blood flow) may lead to uncomfortable increases in circulation for a short time after the magnetic field has been applied. The increase in circulation, while usually a desirable effect, can lead to a surge in oxidative stress. It is desirable to have adequate antioxidant support in the body before beginning treatment. Sudden improvements in circulation may also lead to aggravations of existing extensive or severe inflammatory processes, typically in the skin. Aggravation of hives is likewise possible and should be considered before starting treatment.
When nerve cells are suddenly stimulated, pain may be temporarily aggravated due to the increased signal traffic in the nerve and/or improved circulation to the nerve/s. We see this in individuals who have had prior fractures or scars. Magnetic fields applied distal to the fracture site or scar may temporarily cause pain at the fracture site. If there are multiple blockages along the body, magnetic treatment may cause the phenomenon of “chasing the pain”. In this situation, when one area is treated and improved, another area that may have been quiet, now begins to show pain or discomfort. Normally these problems are not a concern, but should be recognized as a normal consequence of magnetic therapy. In some situations, where the magnetic therapy causes pain in a body part that does not normally have pain, this may be an indication of a significant unidentified underlying problem in that body part, and medical evaluation should be considered. In this case, the magnetic therapy serves as an early warning process.
Magnetic therapies commonly lower blood pressure and decrease heart rate, actions that are almost always positive. These actions can pose a concern for individuals who are elderly, on medication with blood-pressure-lowering actions, are frail, have labile or easily altered blood pressures, have been on extensive bed rest, are in shock or have overwhelming systemic infection, or who have non-brisk, compensatory vascular reflexes. Because people in these situations can have faint when rising from a seated or laying position, they should be warned about this possibility and the need to allow the blood pressure and/or heart rate to stabilize when changing positions. Usually these reactions settle down as magnetic therapy continues and stabilizes body functions.
General reactions occasionally happen as well, particularly in those who have or are suspected of having magnetic field sensitivity. Possible reactions include: increased fatigue, aggravations of sleep, increased pain, vague weakness or loss of energy, metallic tastes, dizziness, “brain fog”, thirst, increased urination, warmth, cold sensations, prickly sensations in the skin, colors in the visual fields, heaviness of the extremities and palpitations. Mostly, people who experience these reactions are thought to have systemic hemodynamic or autonomic instability and/or neurotoxicity, due to chronic infections, chemical sensitivity or environmental toxicities. Many have chronic regional pain syndromes, fibromyalgia and/or chronic fatigue syndrome. The degree of the sensitivity reactions will determine the approach to take with adjusting the magnetic therapy.