What do you think of alternative medicine gizmos?

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I’m sure that most of you have heard that wearing a copper bracelet can help you if you have arthritis. Supposedly wearing magnets can have the same effects on pain. Then there are those pads I’ve seen advertised on TV that you stick to the bottom of your feet to pull out all the toxins in your body. What do you guys think of these types of products? Are their claims just a bunch of hooey? That’s what I wondered when I was approached to try the Power Balance performance boosting hologram stickers.

For $39.99, you get a package of 10 foil stickers, that you can stick on your body. Each sticker is approximately the same diameter as a AAA battery.

What are they and what are they supposed to do for you? According to the packaging, these stickers are programmed with data that reacts with your body’s energy field to enhance performance. They are supposed to increase balance, energy, endurance, power, focus, flexibility, stamina, relaxation and more. They also claim to reduce stress, chronic pain, motion sickness and more. Wow, those are a lot of claims for a little bitty sticker…

One of the stickers is affixed to a little rubber tag. You can sew this tag into your clothes, or wear it around your neck.

I opted to stick one of the discs to my wrist and have been wearing it for the past 2 days. So far I’ve not noticed any benefits or ill effects. I slept as good as I’ve always slept, woke up just as groggy as I always wake up. Didn’t feel any more or less energetic walking and down the stairs at my day job, and don’t feel any more focused than normal trying to write this article. So I guess you can say that I’m not impressed… But I do have an open mind, so I’m going to see if I can talk a co-worker into trying the Power Balance hologram stickers for a few days. She had a car accident and has chronic back pain. It will be interesting to see if they do anything for her. If she does agree to try them, I’ll report back with the details.

What do all think of this product and similar ones? Any stories you would like to share?

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8 thoughts on “What do you think of alternative medicine gizmos?”

  1. Gadgeteer Comment Policy - Please read before commenting
  2. I think they probably work as well as those stick-on cell phone antenna boosters or the cell phone radiation shields you stick on the earpiece…. ;p

  3. When I was in elementary school, my father gave me some leaves and told me to use them as bookmarks because they could increase my memory and improve my grade. After a couple of months, I did notice that my memory power increased and so was my grade. When I grew up, I found out because I believed in those leaves, I studied harder, hence the improvements.

    My brother also received those same leaves. However, he believed that with those leaves, he did not have to study and still get good grades. You figure out his results.

    So, to borrow a line from the animated movie Chicken Run: “It’s all in me head!”

    [Edited at February 19, 2008 20:16:43 PM.]

  4. Unfortunately, these sorts of items are almost always hooey. For example, some claim that magnets aid in blood flow by acting on the iron in your blood; but the iron in your blood is non ferromagnetic, so magnets have no effect (nor have any well-designed trials demonstrated any clinical effect).


    As for kinoki footpads, the Skeptoid podcast did a show on the “detoxification” fad and mentioned Kinoki foot pads and explained how they “work”:


    As for these sticker things, I am an electrical engineer by trade and am immensely skeptical of any claim to act on my “energy fields”. In fact, claims of “energy fields” is a red-flag… the same podcaster I linked to above also did a show about such claims:


    Still, nothing should be immediately dismissed out of hand until it has been studied carefully. But the plural of “anecdote” is not “data”, and I like to see well designed clinical trials demonstrate a positive effect for a therapy before I shell out for one… and these sorts of products can be EXPENSIVE! 🙂

    There are many people who honestly believe that these sorts of products benefit them, and there is no reason to believe that they are lying or deceiving themselves. So why do they feel better if they use one of these dubious products? One of the prevailing hypotheses is that people who truly believe something will help them tend to relax and feel better for having taken such an action. Stress can have physiological effects, so the relief of stress will certainly make them feel better. This is similar to the “placebo effect”:



    I do hope that Julie’s friend feels better. Maybe these sticky thingies will help her, either by the placebo effect or some other mechanism. Regardless chronic back pain is a terrible thing to live through and I wish her the best.

    [Edited at February 19, 2008 20:43:00 PM.]

  5. These kinds of remedies are often pursued by folks who don’t want to face the reality of the seriousness of their situation. Folks who are avoidant about the fact they may have to go to a doctor, take some real medicine or even have surgery. There was a great South Park episode about just this very kind of thing. Life can suck, and there’s no easy fix.

  6. I know that there’s a feeling amongst a lot of people that these kinds of gadgets are at worst harmless, and might actually help, but I disagree. Most (all?) of these things give false hope to people, potentially stop them getting real help from the medical profession, and line the pockets of people who prey on the vulnerable. Not great at all. Sorry to be so po faced!
    Goodness – it’s easy to get uptight about some things!

    PS. I echo the comment about back pain – it’s really horrible. One gizmo that did help me (and is itself still somewhat contraversial) is the TENS machine that uses electrical stimulation to interfere with pain signals. Worth a shot!

    [Edited at February 25, 2008 10:26:20 AM.]

  7. It is my understanding that certain frequencies can influence the body’s energy field to heal itself. Generally the healing can only occur when the mind goes along and certain mental shifts do occur, which generally means that certain negative, limiting or blocking beliefs or feelings are being dropped. Obviously these shifts need to occur on a deep subconscious level. Therefore the frequency is just an impulse, a facilitator. It can come in the form of sound frequencies (Mozart Effect), light frequencies (color therapy), scents (aroma therapy) and hence also electromagnetic frequencies. The carrier for these frequencies can be anything from distilled water to little metallic discs, it does not matter.
    The problem with proving the efficacy of any such system is that not everyone is going to react to it, not everyone is going to actually make the necessary mental shift.
    The placebo effect also happens in the mind, in that sense the two approaches are very similar. To determine what is what and which part is now responsible for the healing, or not, is kind of difficult.
    It certainly is still a new field of knowledge and obviously some companies are happy to jump the gun and make a bunch of claims. On the other hand there is also the pharmaceutical industry and the medical establishment who have a multi billion or trillion racket going and would certainly not like to see something as inexpensive as a little metallic sticker compete with them. So if you are looking for people who are trying to line their pockets, you may wan to focus your attention on the medical-industrial complex and its lobbying power.

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