Medical Policy

 

Subject: Biomagnetic Therapy
Document #: ANC.00006 Current Effective Date:    09/27/2017
Status: Reviewed Last Review Date:    08/03/2017

Description/Scope

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:

Position Statement

Investigational and Not Medically Necessary:

The application of biomagnetic therapy in any capacity is considered investigational and not medically necessary.

Rationale

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.

Background/Overview

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.

Definitions

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.

Coding

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.

CPT  
97799 Unlisted physical medicine/rehabilitation service or procedure [when specified as biomagnetic therapy]
   
HCPCS  
  No specific code for magnets for biomagnetic therapy
   
ICD-10 Diagnosis  
  All diagnoses
   
References

Peer Reviewed Publications:

  1. Carpenter JS, Wells N, Lambert B, et al. A pilot study of magnet therapy for hot flashes after breast cancer. Cancer Nursing. 2002; 25(2):104-109.
  2. Cepeda MS, Carr DB, Sarquis T, et al. Static magnetic therapy does not decrease pain or opioid requirements: a randomized double-blind trial. Anesth Analg. 2007; 104(2):290-294.
  3. Colbert AP, Markov MS, Carlson N, et al. Static magnetic field therapy for carpal tunnel syndrome: a feasibility study. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2010; 91(7):1098-1104.
  4. Macfarlane GJ, Paudyal P, Doherty M, et al; Arthritis Research UK working group on Complementary and Alternative Therapies for Management of Rheumatic Diseases. A systematic review of evidence for the effectiveness of practitioner-based complementary and alternative therapies in the management of rheumatic diseases: osteoarthritis. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2012; 51(12):2224-2233.
  5. Pittler MH, Brown, EM, Ernst E. Static magnets for reducing pain: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized trials. CMAJ. 2007; 177(7):736-742.
  6. Richmond SJ, Brown SR, Campion PD, et al. Therapeutic effects of magnetic and copper bracelets in osteoarthritis: a randomised placebo-controlled crossover trial. Complement Ther Med. 2009; 17(5-6):249-256.
  7. Richmond SJ, Gunadasa S, Bland M, Macpherson H. Copper bracelets and magnetic wrist straps for rheumatoid arthritis-analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects: a randomised double-blind placebo-controlled crossover trial. PLoS One. 2013; 8(9):e71529.
  8. Winemiller MH, Billow RG, Laskowski ER, et al. Effect of magnetic vs. sham-magnetic insoles on plantar heel pain. JAMA. 2003; 290(11):1474-1478.
  9. Wolsko PM, Eisenberg DM, Simon LS, et al. Double-blind placebo-controlled trial of static magnets for the treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee: results of a pilot study. Alternative Therapies. 2004; 10(2):36-43.

 Government Agency, Medical Society, and Other Authoritative Publications:

  1. Cheong YC, Smotra G, Williams AC. Non-surgical interventions for the management of chronic pelvic pain. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014;(3):CD008797.
  2. Crawford F, Thomson C. Interventions for treating plantar heel pain. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2003;(3):CD000416.
  3. Kroeling P, Gross A, Graham N, et al. Electrotherapy for neck pain. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013; (8):CD004251.
  4. Stones W, Cheong YC, Howard FM. Interventions for treating chronic pelvic pain in women. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2005;(2):CD000387.
Websites for Additional Information
  1. National Center for Complimentary and Integrative Health. Magnets for pain relief. Updated February 2013. Available at: https://nccih.nih.gov/health/magnet/magnetsforpain.htm . Accessed on June 26, 2017.
Index

Biomagnetic Therapy
Magnetic Therapy
Magnetherapy
Magnotherapy
Static Magnetic Field Therapy
Therapeutic Magnets

Document History
Status Date Action
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.
Reviewed 08/28/2008 MPTAC review. 
  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.

 

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