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Q. I am looking for information on treating horses with magnets. Could you tell me how they work and what type of conditions they can be applied to?

Caroline Vie, Surrey

A. Magnets have been used in medicine for thousands of years. Nowadays they can trat non-union fractures, contusions, degenerative bone conditions, delayed wound healing, acute and chronic injury to bone and soft tissue, such as bowed tendons, stretched ligaments and diseases of the back and lumbar regions, as well as helping stiff horses.

There are two major types – the bipolar magnet and pulsating electromagnetic field (PEMF) systems.

  • The bipolar systems involve a blanket or a boot that is impregnated with magnetic neads set so that the magnetic field of eah bead is the opposite of its neighbours.

    When blood flows past the beads, icons (charged atoms) are buffeted towards and away from them due to the positive or negative magnetic field. This forces the blood vessels in that area to dilate, allowing better blood flow to the damaged area and speeding up healing.

  • Pulsating (PEMF) systems use battery power to send a current down a coil of wire housed in the boot or blanket. When electric passes along a wire, an electromagnetic field is thrown out around the wire. The wire then acts as a magnet.If the current is stopped, the field collapses.

    By turning the current on and off rapidly, the same buffeting effect on the tissues below can be achieved as the beads. The stronger the current, the deeper the penetration. PEMF systems tend to be stronger and have greater tissue penetration than the bipolar magnets.

    Nick Thompson MRCVS