Rheumatoid Arthritis

Do Copper Bracelets Help Ease Arthritis?

  • Copper: An Ancient Medicine

    Copper, a lustrous, orange-red element, was the first metal ever used by humans. Middle Eastern artisans of the 5th and 6th millennia BC fashioned copper into jewelry, tools, vessels, utensils, and weapons.

    Besides being useful as a metal, copper also kills or inhibits the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms. The Smith Papyrus, one of the oldest books ever discovered, written sometime between 2600 and 2200 BC, records the use of copper to sterilize chest wounds and drinking water.

  • Copper Is Vital to Life

    Copper is present in the human body as a mineral in trace amounts. It helps the body use iron and supports nerve function. Copper is useful in enzyme systems and helps produce energy and even skin color.

    Found in many foods, including nuts, potatoes, green vegetables, shellfish, beef liver, and chocolate, copper helps regulate blood pressure and heart rate. Studies have shown that copper also has antioxidant properties and may help ward off cancer.

  • Copper and Arthritis

    Wearing a copper bracelet as a remedy for arthritis has been popular in folklore for thousands of years. Even today, you may be able to find inexpensive copper bracelets displayed on drugstore counters. 

    But how does copper work? Sellers claim that tiny amounts of copper rub off the bracelet onto the skin, which absorbs it into the body. They claim the copper re-grows joint cartilage that has been lost because of arthritis, and that this cures the ailment and relieves pain.

  • Do Copper Bracelets Really Relieve Arthritis?

    A recent five-week scientific study observed participants who wore copper bracelets, magnetic wrist straps, or bracelets and wrist straps that were neither copper nor magnetized (placebos). The participants were not told which type they were given.

    Each week, scientists checked the participants for signs of trouble in their joints. They noted swelling, redness, and pain and also ran weekly blood tests. The participants answered questions about any pain they might have. Researchers also considered participants’ medications and level of disease activity. 

    The result: copper bracelets (and magnetic wrist straps) had no more effect on arthritis than the placebos.

  • What Is a Placebo?

    It’s possible that some people who wear copper and feel positive health effects are experiencing a placebo effect. A placebo is a stand-in, or “dummy” treatment designed to deceive a recipient. Researchers use placebos to control experiments because placebos are supposed to be ineffective as a treatment for a condition. When researchers use a placebo, and it actually improves the condition, it's called “the placebo effect.”

    Scientists don’t know for sure why the placebo effect happens. It may be because the subject simply believes that the fake treatment can make them feel better.

  • Other Complimentary Remedies for Arthritis

    Of the many complimentary remedies for arthritis, some are beneficial. But, others, such as copper bracelets and magnets, work only as placebos or don't work at all.

    Other complimentary remedies include dietary and herbal supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin, boswellia, aloe vera, cat’s claw, eucalyptus, and cinnamon. But beware; there is little regulation of companies that sell herbal remedies.

    Some complimentary physical therapies that have been found to help arthritis are massage, acupuncture, yoga, qi gong and tai chi.

  • Types of Arthritis

    One reason to be skeptical of folk remedies for arthritis is that there are more than 100 different forms of arthritis. And, there are many different causes of arthritis, too. For example, osteoarthritis is caused by “wear and tear” on the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease and doesn’t have a known cause. Gout, a very painful type of arthritis, is caused by a build-up of uric acid crystals in joints. All of these types of arthritis have different causes and different treatments. Folk remedies may not take all of the different types into consideration. 

  • Better Than Copper Bracelets

    All types of arthritis can be painful and debilitating. Some, like rheumatoid arthritis, can't be cured. But, many powerful medicines can help treat arthritis and relieve pain. 

    Living a healthy lifestyle is good for arthritis, too. Eating healthy foods, exercising, avoiding or limiting alcohol, and not smoking can all help.

    Unlike copper bracelets, medication, healthy lifestyle choices, and certain complimentary therapies have been shown to help arthritis. A copper bracelet might help, but then again, now that you understand the placebo effect, maybe it won’t.

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