Michael Montopoli has had diabetes for 22 years. He walks with a cane because his illness has caused what's called peripheral neuropathy, which is a fancy way to say nerve damage that has messed up the feeling in his feet.
"Hot, cold, pain, touch, I get numbing, tingling, sharp pains. I get it all, sometimes all at once, sometimes individually. It just happens 24 hours a day, and never stops," says Mr. Montopoli.
It's estimated that as many as half of all diabetics have some degree of peripheral neuropathy which can lead to infection, and even in some cases, amputation. Drugs help, but not enough for most diabetics. Instead, some patients are turning to magnets for relief, and now, researchers at New York Medical College have set up a double blind study to test the magnets on nearly 400 patients. Some wore special magnetic insoles 24 hours a day while a second group wore special fake inserts without the magnets. Here's what they found after four months.
"Patients who were in the real group, who had the magnets, had reduction in numbness and tingling, reduction in burning, and then when they were walking for 10 minutes, their foot felt better than when they started," says Dr. Michael Weintaub of New York Medical College.
Montopoli says he's been using the magnets. He says he's improved enough that he's not giving them up. Even so, magnet therapy is still controversial, partly because no one knows why it works, if and when it does help relieve pain. But Dr. Weintraub says the theory is that the magnetic field on these special magnets penetrates about 4/5 of an inch, enough hopefully to influence the nerves.