This document addresses the use of static (not electrically charged) magnetic fields as a method to relieve pain. Biomagnetic therapy consists of placing a magnet on or near the skin, using a variety of devices including, but not limited to: bracelets, necklaces, insoles, sleeves, head bands, or mattress pads. It may also be referred to as magnetic therapy, magnetherapy, magnotherapy, static magnetic field therapy, or therapeutic magnets.
Note: This document does not address transcranial magnetic stimulation. For further information please see:
Investigational and Not Medically Necessary:
The application of biomagnetic therapy in any capacity is considered investigational and not medically necessary.
Randomized studies have shown no significant beneficial effects from magnetic therapy for a variety of conditions. In one such study, Cepeda and colleagues (2007) evaluated the use of magnetic therapy on postoperative pain in a randomized, double-blind, controlled trial. A total of 165 subjects were randomized to either sham therapy or magnetic therapy upon reporting moderate to severe pain in a post anesthesia unit. Sham or commercially available magnets were placed over the surgical incision site for 2 hours. Study subjects rated their pain on a scale of 0-10. Pain was rated similarly in both groups, but the active magnet group required more morphine than the sham magnet group. The authors concluded that magnetic therapy lacks efficacy and should not be recommended for acute pain relief.
Colbert and colleagues (2010) collected data on the effectiveness of magnetic therapy for carpal tunnel syndrome in a randomized, double-blind, sham-controlled feasibility study. Participants (n=60) were recruited from the general population and nightly wore either a magnetic or a nonmagnetic disc. Primary outcome measures included a symptom severity scale and a function severity scale of the Boston Carpal Tunnel Questionnaire, and four median nerve parameters. Study results indicated that participants in the active magnet group and the control group experienced some improvement after 6 weeks of treatment, but no significant between-group differences in outcome measures were demonstrated.
A Cochrane review (Kroeling, 2013) evaluated the effectiveness of therapies, one of which was permanent magnets (necklaces), as a treatment for neck pain. The authors noted the quality of evidence found was low and further study appeared to be needed. Conclusions included that for individuals with chronic neck pain, magnetic necklaces were no more effective in providing relief than placebo. Similarly, in a more recent Cochrane review conducted by Cheong and colleagues (2014) on nonsurgical interventional approaches to treat pelvic pain, authors concluded that, "No difference in pain levels was observed when magnetic therapy was compared with use of a control magnet." The quality of evidence for magnetic therapy as a treatment for pelvic pain was considered to be of very low quality.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health provides information on magnets for pain relief (2013). The fact sheet notes, although widely marketed, the "Scientific evidence does not support the use of magnets for pain relief."
In summary, there is no scientific basis to conclude that biomagnetic therapy can relieve pain or influence the course of any disease or condition. The published literature does not validate the clinical role of this treatment methodology.
Biomagnetic therapy is a proposed approach to analgesia that utilizes the non-invasive application of static magnets to create an electromagnetic field to areas of musculoskeletal damage or perceived discomfort. The use of magnets as therapeutic agents has existed since antiquity and remains a medical fixture in many cultures.
Clinically, biomagnetic therapy is reported to lessen the discomfort arising from a variety of degenerative joint conditions, such as osteoarthritis and aid in the recovery of joint and tendon injury. However, these claims are not paired with in situ or laboratory examinations of the affected anatomy following therapy. Though the precise physiological mechanism remains elusive, proponents of biomagnetic therapy attribute its recuperative effects to an unspecified up-regulation of cellular functions. Further ambiguity stems from the fact that the reported efficacy of this treatment is based largely on the subjective experiences of subjects participating in clinical trials that admittedly display a significant placebo effect and investigator bias.
The effectiveness of biomagnetic therapy for relieving pain is still in question. The treatment is generally considered harmless, unless it causes an individual to forego other needed medical treatments.
Analgesia: Absence of normal sense of pain.
Biomagnetic Therapy (may also be known as magnetic therapy, magnetherapy, magnotherapy, static magnetic field therapy, or therapeutic magnets): The application of magnets for the treatment of a health condition.
Magnet: A material or object that produces a magnetic field that attracts other ferromagnetic materials, such as iron.
The following codes for treatments and procedures applicable to this document are included below for informational purposes. Inclusion or exclusion of a procedure, diagnosis or device code(s) does not constitute or imply member coverage or provider reimbursement policy. Please refer to the member's contract benefits in effect at the time of service to determine coverage or non-coverage of these services as it applies to an individual member.
When services are Investigational and Not Medically Necessary:
When the code describes a procedure indicated in the Position Statement section as investigational and not medically necessary.
|97799||Unlisted physical medicine/rehabilitation service or procedure [when specified as biomagnetic therapy]|
|No specific code for magnets for biomagnetic therapy|
Peer Reviewed Publications:
Government Agency, Medical Society, and Other Authoritative Publications:
|Websites for Additional Information|
Static Magnetic Field Therapy
|Reviewed||08/03/2017||Medical Policy & Technology Assessment Committee (MPTAC) review. Updated Rationale and References sections.|
|Reviewed||08/04/2016||MPTAC review. References and Websites sections updated. Removed ICD-9 codes from Coding section.|
|Reviewed||08/06/2015||MPTAC review. Rationale and References sections updated. Website section added.|
|Reviewed||08/14/2014||MPTAC review. Description and References sections updated.|
|Reviewed||08/08/2013||MPTAC review. Description (note) and Rationale sections updated.|
|Reviewed||08/09/2012||MPTAC review. Description (note), Background and Index sections updated.|
|Reviewed||08/18/2011||MPTAC review. Description, Rationale, Definition, References, and Index sections updated.|
|Reviewed||08/19/2010||MPTAC review. Description, rationale, background and references updated.|
|Reviewed||08/27/2008||MPTAC review. Updated References section.|
|02/21/2008||The phrase "investigational/not medically necessary" was clarified to read "investigational and not medically necessary." This change was approved at the November 29, MPTAC meeting.|
|Reviewed||08/23/2007||MPTAC review. Updated References and Index sections.|
|Reviewed||09/14/2006||MPTAC review. Added reference to: BEH.00002 Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation as a Treatment of Depression and Other Psychiatric Disorders; SURG.00010 Treatment of Urinary Incontinence, Urinary Retention and Sacral Nerve Stimulation; and MED.00046 Electrical Stimulation and Electromagnetic Therapy for Wound Healing.|
|Revised||09/22/2005||MPTAC review. Revision based on Pre-merger Anthem and Pre-merger WellPoint Harmonization|
|Pre-Merger Organizations||Last Review Date||Document Number||Title|
|Anthem, Inc.||07/27/2004||ANC.00006||Biomagnetic Therapy|
|WellPoint Health Networks, Inc.||