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Study Reveals Copper Bracelets Do Not Help With Arthritis

Update Date: Sep 17, 2013 04:28 PM EDT

For people who suffer from the chronic disease arthritis, they have to deal with daily pain and aches. Even though there are treatments for arthritis, some patients have turned to the use of copper bracelets that have been repeatedly advertised to help alleviate some of the pain. Patients now believe that wearing copper and magnetic bracelets would help. However, according to a new study, these bracelets do not medically alleviate any pains. If people feel better wearing these bracelets, the researchers reasoned that the improvements are most likely due to a placebo effect.

"Devices such as these provide a placebo effect for users who believe in them," explained Dr. Stewart Richmond, a research fellow in the Department of Health Sciences at York University. Richmond led the study. "People normally begin wearing them during a flare-up period, and then, as their symptoms subside naturally over time, they confuse this with a therapeutic effect. Pain varies greatly over time in conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, and the way we perceive pain can be altered significantly by the power of the mind."

In this study, researchers from York University conducted the first ever-scientific study examining the effects of these bracelets. They recruited adults between the ages of 33 and 79 who had arthritis. The participants wore four different kinds of these devices over the span of five months. They were all asked to record their level of pain and their medication use. The researchers also took blood samples to record any changes with inflammation levels.

The researchers found that these bracelets did not provide any relief from the symptoms associated with arthritis. If participants felt better after wearing the bracelets, the researchers believed that a placebo effect was the cause of it. The team concluded that people should not spend money on these bracelets. People should instead invest in improving their diets and lifestyles.

"People may be better off saving their money, or spending it on other complementary interventions such as dietary fish oils for example, which have far better evidence for effectiveness," Richmond stated. "Warning people who suspect they may have rheumatoid arthritis to consult their GP [general practitioner] and seek early medical treatment, rather than placing faith in such devices, is also important in helping to avoid long-term joint damage resulting from uncontrolled inflammation."

The study was published in PLOS ONE.

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