Magnetic therapy is an alternative method for treating multiple conditions. Thomas Skalak, a biomedical engineering professor at the University of Virginia, has been researching its effectiveness. Skalak's lab focuses on microcirculation research - the study of blood flow through the body's tiniest blood vessels. Skalak set out to investigate if magnets increase blood flow.
Magnets of 70 milliTesla field strength - about 10 times the strength of the common refrigerator variety - were placed near laboratory rats' blood vessels. Measurements of blood vessel diameter were taken before and after exposure to the static magnetic fields - the force created by the magnets. The vessels that had been dilated constricted, and the constricted vessels dilated, implying that the magnetic field could induce vessel relaxation in tissues with constrained blood supply, ultimately increasing blood flow.
Dilation of blood vessels often causes swelling at sites of trauma to soft tissues. This led Skalak to investigate whether magnets would also reduce swelling. The hind paws of anesthetized rats were treated with inflammatory agents to simulate tissue injury. Magnetic therapy was then applied to the paws. The research results indicate that magnets can significantly reduce swelling if applied immediately after tissue trauma. This means that magnets could be used much like ice packs for everyday sprains, bumps, and bruises, with more beneficial results.