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Can Copper Arthritis Bracelets Help Arthritis Pain?

written by: Dr. Kristie Leong • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 9/15/2010

Copper arthritis bracelets have been used for centuries to treat arthritis pain. Do they really work?

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    Can Copper Bracelets Help Arthritis Pain?

    If you suffer from arthritis pain and can’t tolerate the side effects of prescription arthritis medications, it’s natural to look for alternative treatments for your pain and discomfort. One alternative treatment for arthritis pain that has generated a great deal of controversy is the use of copper arthritis bracelets to treat the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis. Does this actually work or is this simply slick advertising on the part of copper bracelet manufacturers?

    Although this issue is widely debated, most medical doctors deny that copper arthritis bracelets have any substantial effect on arthritis pain. Despite this, copper bracelets for arthritis continue to be advertised and snatched up by eager consumers anxious to get some relief from their chronic joint discomfort.

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    History

    The use of copper arthritis bracelets for the treatment of pain dates back thousands of years, some say to the times of the early Greeks. This use has continued into the modern era with some patients diagnosed with arthritis reporting improvement in their arthritis pain symptoms after using copper bracelets. Is this a placebo effect or are these arthritis sufferers experiencing real results from wearing these bracelets?

    The science behind the use of copper arthritis bracelets to relieve arthritis pain and inflammation stems from the concept that copper destroys superoxide free radicals which cause inflammation in the joints of people suffering from arthritis. In order to have this effect, the copper from these bracelets would need to be absorbed through the skin in sufficient quantities. An Australian study carried out in 1976 did show that the copper from copper arthritis bracelets dissolved and could be absorbed by the skin but were unable to prove that people experienced fewer symptoms after wearing a copper bracelet for arthritis. (1) Interestingly, some subjects in the study reported experiencing subjective improvement in their symptoms after wearing the bracelet, although it was difficult to determine whether this was due to the placebo effect. Previous studies carried out in the mid 1970’s were also inconclusive. (2)

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    Are They Harmful?

    Can wearing a copper bracelet for arthritis cause harm? There’s no evidence that wearing copper arthritis bracelets are harmful unless you have an allergy to copper. One danger might be buying a bracelet that’s advertised as copper and discovering that you’re actually wearing a copper colored lead based metal. If you wear any type of copper bracelet or other jewelry on your body, make sure it’s free of lead before placing it on your skin.

    Although the verdict is still out as to whether copper arthritis bracelets have any real effect on arthritis symptoms, wearing one is unlikely to be harmful. Just don’t use it as a substitute for convention medical treatment.

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    Sources

    1. Agents Actions, 1976 Jul; 6(4): 454-9

    2. http://altmed.creighton.edu/copper/favorite.htm

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    Disclaimer

    This information is meant for informational purposes only. It's not intended to diagnose or treat illness. For medical advice, consult with your personal physician.