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According to the results of a randomized controlled trial, use of copper bracelets and magnetic wrist straps do not reduce RA symptoms or disease activity. These results were published in PLOS ONE.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) affects an estimated 1.3 million adults in the United States. The condition can have a profound effect on many aspects of daily life, and is often poorly understood by those who do not have direct experience it. The good news is that important advances have been made in the management of RA: use of more effective drugs earlier in the course of RA reduces symptoms and joint damage, and allows some patients to achieve a remission (little or no active disease).

In addition to standard approaches to managing RA, some people with RA also seek complementary approaches to managing their condition. Information about the efficacy of these approaches is often limited, highlighting the need for high-quality research in this area.

The current study evaluated the efficacy of copper bracelets or magnetic wrist straps for pain relief among people with RA. Studies have not demonstrated that these approaches are effective, but there continues to be public interest in them.

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The study enrolled 70 RA patients between the ages of 33 and 79. All had painful RA. Study participants were assigned to wear four devices in a different order. The devices were a standard (1502 to 2365 gauss) magnetic wrist strap, a demagnetized (less than 20 gauss) wrist strap, an attenuated (weakened; 250 to 350 gauss) wrist strap, and a copper bracelet. Each device was worn for five weeks.

The amount of pain reported by the subjects was similar with each of the four devices. This suggests that magnetic wrist straps and copper bracelets are no more effective than a non-magnetic wrist strap at relieving RA pain.

Reference: Richmond SJ, Gundasa S, Bland M, MacPherson H et al. Copper bracelets and magnetic wrist straps for rheumatoid arthritis—analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects: a randomized double-blind placebo controlled crossover trial. PLOS ONE. September 2013;8(9):e71529.