Having a serious illness is difficult. Nobody wants to feel sick, or deal with side effects of medications and other treatments. In order to feel better, many people try complementary and alternative (CAM) treatments. Is this a good idea? Are these treatments safe and effective? This post provides information on the pros and cons of yoga and magnetic therapy.
For an overview of important general information on CAM treatments, please read the first post in the series. Additionally, read the following posts for the pros and cons of these other common CAM treatments:
- Acupuncture, Ayurveda & Reiki
- Chiropractic, Osteopathy and Homeopathy
- Naturopathy, Tai Chi and Dietary Supplements
Before jumping into a CAM treatment, realize that like all medical treatments, CAM treatments also involve some degree of risk. And, as you may expect, some CAM treatments are more effective and safer than others. And not all CAM practitioners have the same training and expertise. So do yourself a big favor and do some research, talk to your doctor, and be realistic about potential outcomes. And don’t ignore traditional treatments while using CAM therapies.
Yoga is a mind/body practice which typically combines physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation or relaxation. Hatha yoga, which is commonly practiced in the US and Europe, emphasizes postures (asanas), breathing exercises (pranayama) and meditation (dyana). Some of the popular styles in the US are Anusara, Bikram, Iyengar, Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Kundalini and Restorative. (For a description of each type, search online or read this DailyBurn summary.)
It’s important to note that some classes are rigorous, while others are gentler.
What are the benefits of practicing yoga?
Although there have been many studies evaluating the health effects of yoga, many of these studies have only included small numbers of people and are not considered high quality research. Therefore, it’s impossible to say with certainty that yoga can help particular health issues. But, the benefits of yoga are promising, and millions of people swear by it!
Research suggests that yoga might:
- Improve general well-being by relieving stress, supporting good health habits, and improving mental/emotional health, sleep, and balance
- Reduce low-back and/or neck pain
- Relieve menopause symptoms
- Help people manage anxiety or depressive symptoms associated with difficult life situations (however, it’s important to note, there is no evidence that yoga helps people with anxiety disorders, clinical depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD])
- Make it easier to quit smoking
- Help people lose weight
- Help people with chronic diseases manage symptoms and improve their quality of life
Is yoga safe?
Many consider yoga safe for healthy people when performed properly, with the guidance of a qualified teacher. However, injuries are possible, particularly sprains and strains – especially for those over 65. Additionally, practicing hot yoga can lead to dehydration and overheating.
While many medical professionals, yoga instructors and yoga enthusiasts consider yoga safe, not everyone agrees. A NY Times article provides an opposing perspective from Glenn Black, a yoga instructor with 40 years of experience who believes yoga can be dangerous. Black thinks the vast majority of people should give up yoga altogether because it’s “simply too likely to cause harm”. He adds that people injure themselves due to underlying physical weaknesses or problems that make serious injury from yoga all but inevitable. In Black’s classes, where he often provides help for those injured by previous yoga practices, he emphasizes holding a few simple poses.
To minimize your risk of injury, talk to your doctor before you start, use a trained, experienced yoga teacher, and adapt poses as you need to suit your physical limitations. If you have a serious health condition, talk to your yoga instructor before you start a class. And, don’t push your body into postures that you can’t achieve easily, and don’t let an instructor force you by bullying or with actual physical pressure such as pushing or pulling.
Can yoga relieve pain?
Studies show that those with back pain who practice yoga have significantly less disability, pain and depression after 6 months, compared to patients in standard care. Additionally, research shows yoga improves overall function for back pain sufferers more than traditional medical care. However, there has been very little research on the impact of yoga for headaches, arthritis, or fibromyalgia. So, it’s uncertain if yoga can relieve pain associated with these conditions.
How popular is yoga?
Very! According to a 2017 survey, about 1 in 7 US adults practiced yoga in the past 12 months.
Magnetic Field Therapies
This topic can easily confuse people, since there are different types of magnetic therapies and several similar sounding names. In a nutshell, magnetic field therapy uses different kinds of magnets on the body to help overall health and to treat certain conditions.
There are several types, including:
Static magnetic therapy
Magnetic therapy involves “static or permanent” magnets, which have magnetic fields that don’t change. These magnets are fairly weak and often wrapped or encased and then sold in a product that users place against their skin where they feel pain. You can buy these products online and in stores, no prescription needed.
There is no consistent scientific evidence that this type of magnetic therapy helps with pain relief.
Magnetic therapy with acupuncture
Acupuncturists sometimes use magnets to treat the body’s energy pathways.
Electromagnetic therapy uses magnets with an electric charge, which can stimulate living tissue. Treatment usually comes through an electric pulse, and can heal damaged tissues and bones, and can even stimulate organs.
Theoretically, these low frequency pulses pass through the skin and penetrate deep into muscle, bones, tendons, and organs to activate the cell’s energy and encourage its natural repair mechanisms.
There are many types of electromagnetic therapies, including a range of pulsed electromagnetic fields (PEMFs) devices.
Although you can buy PEMF equipment online, I strongly suggest you discuss this type of treatment with your doctors before making a purchase. Generally, patients either receive electromagnetic treatment in a clinical setting or they use a portable device at home.
What are the benefits?
Scientific studies show health benefits of electromagnetic therapies for a variety of ailments. A few examples:
- There is evidence that electromagnetic therapies can help patients with motor and non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
- Two clinical studies of PEMF showed promising results for cancer treatment.
- An analysis of prior research found that PEMF therapy successfully managed postsurgical pain and swelling, aided in the treatment of chronic wounds, and facilitated the dilation of blood vessels and the formation of new blood vessels.
- Research shows that PEMF helps fuse slow-healing tibial fractures.
- In one study, a month of PEMF treatment decreased pain and improved functional performance in osteoarthritis patients.
Is it safe?
Yes, for most people. However, because its safety is unproven, experts recommend that young children and pregnant women avoid magnetic field therapy. Additionally, people with medical devices or implants, such as pacemakers and insulin pumps, should avoid magnet therapy, because it could interfere with the device’s function. Fortunately, if you’re not in any of the situations mentioned above, there are likely no negative side effects or complications. However, on rare occasions patients can experiences rashes, electric shocks, pain, nausea or dizziness. Lastly, it can be used safely in conjunction with other treatment protocols.
And as with other CAM treatments, you should always talk to your doctor before starting any type of magnetic therapy.