Ionized Bracelets: Do They Work on Pain?

December 4, 2002

Have you seen those advertisements for bracelets that eliminate pain? These "ionized" bracelets are endorsed by celebrities and athletes. The makers of ionized bracelets claim that the bracelets work by balancing the body's energy or "yin and yang" and that imbalances in yin and yang result in pain. Do these bracelets really work? Researchers at the Mayo Clinic (Jacksonville, FL) performed some controlled experiments to find out.

Patients who complained of pain in the neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hands, back, hip, knees, ankles or feet were divided into two groups. One group of 305 patients wore an ionized wrist bracelet; another group of 305 patients wore a wrist bracelet that looked just like the ionized bracelet (placebo). During the experiment, neither the patients nor the researchers knew who was wearing an ionized bracelet or a placebo bracelet. At the start of the experiment, the patients were asked to rate their pain on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 was "very little pain" and 10 was "pain as bad as it could be." The patients also rated their pain over the course of four weeks (on days 1, 3, 7, 14, 21, 28) after they started to wear their bracelets.

Both groups of patients showed significant reductions in pain. However, there were no differences in pain reduction between the ionized bracelet group and the placebo bracelet group at any time. In other words, wearing a fake bracelet was just as good at reducing pain as an ionized bracelet! Before the experiment began, 80% of the patients reported that they believed that ionized bracelets could reduce joint or muscle pain. Therefore, it is possible that the BELIEF in the "power" of the bracelet was responsible for the reduction of pain. It would have been interesting if the researchers included a group of patients who did not wear any bracelet to see how pain reports change over time.

An ionized bracelet costs between $50 and $110. According to this new research, it may be best to keep your money in your pocket.

Did you know?

  • A "double blind" experiment is one in which both the researcher and the subject do not know what group the subject is in. Therefore, the subjects and researchers will not have any expectations about the experiment that might influence the results. When all of the data have been collected, the researchers and subjects can be told which group they were in.

  • The word "placebo" comes from the Latin phrase that means "I will please."

    Hear it: "Placebo"

Reference and further information:

  1. Bratton, R.L., Montero, D.P., Adams, K.S., Novas, M.A., McKay, T.C., Hall, L.J., Foust, J.G., Mueller, M.B., O'Brien, P.C., Atkinson, E.J., Maurer, M.S. Effect of "ionized" wrist bracelets on musculoskeletal pain: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Mayo Clin Proc., 77:1164-1168, 2002.

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