A New-Wave Therapy
for Diabetic Neuropathy
By Norra MacReady
haron Wade has seen firsthand the the infection may spread to the bone, and plates for the feet. Under each footplate are
dreadful toll of seve:e diabetes. the foot may then have to be amputated. three magnets, which rotate continuously
Her mother developed diabetic Some experts estimate that half of all such and deliver 1,800 gauss of magnetic energy
neuropathy in her feetthat progressed to amputations are preventable if minor prob- that penetrate three inches into each foot.
gangrene. Finallyit became so advanced lems are caught and treated in time. 'These are powerful magnets - refriger-
that she required.an amputation - and So far,there are no good remedies for dia- ator magnets won't work," says Michael
died on the day she was to undergo surgery. betic neuropathy, but the nationwide study Weintraub, M.D., the clinical trials princi-
She was 67 years old. pal investigator.
Sharon Wade, now 48, herself Study participants must use
was diagnosed with diabetes the device for a total of two
eight years ago and developed hours a day, for 90 days. Some
neuropathy about five years say the energizer feelslike a foot
later. So when she learned of a massager. It has no side effects
study involving magnetic energy and is painless; most users say
as a treatment for diabetic neu- they feel only a mild vibration.
ropathy, she took notice. However, because ofits magnet-
Neuropathy, or nerve damage, ic field,pregnantwomenand .-
affiicts 50 percent to 70 percent people with heart pacemakers
of the 21 million Americans with are excluded from the study.
diabetes. The causes haven't Dr. Weintraub, clinicalprofes-
been completelyidentified,but sor of neurology at New York
theyarethoughtto includepro- Medical College in Valhalla,
longed exposure to the high N.Y., became interested in the
blood sugar levels characteristic power of magnets after a few of
of diabetes, genetic factors, and his patients claimed they
damage to the blood vessels that relieved pain. Hes been studying
carry oxygen and nutrients to themfonnallysince 1996, when
the nerves. he asked 14 patients with severe
Whatever the cause, neuropa- diabetic neuropathy to wear
thy is a serious complication. Its magnetized insoles in their
symptoms include numbness, shoes or socks 24 hours a day,
tingling and pain that patients even while asleep. After four
describe as shooting, burning or months, nerve conduction
stabbing. Neuropathy may also improved by an average of 75
cause muscle weakness and loss percent, with a corresponding
of reflexes, especially at the decrease in feelingsof numb-
ankle, leading to changes in gait. Foot defor- that Sharon Wade joined is evaluating a ness,pain, tinglingand especiallyburning.
mities, such as hammertoes and the col- promising new approach involving pulsed He repeated the study in another small
lapse of the midfoot, may occur. Blisters and magnetic energy. group ofpatients,with similarlyencourag-
sores may appear on numb areas of the foot The energy is provided through a device ing results.
and become infected because the injury called the BiaxialBody Energizer. The ener- Next, Dr. Weintraub studied magnet-
goes unnoticed. Without prompt treatment, gizer resembles a bathroom scale, with two ized insoles forpatients with moderate to
44 NEUROLOGY NOW. MAY/JUNE 2006
A Proactive to
severe neuropathy. He randomly assigned
patients to wear either the magnetized
with foot ulcers before and after their par-
ticipation in the study: Managing
insole or a sham device. This trial was
double-blind, meaning that neither he nor
the participants knew which group they
The participants may not know if they
have a real or sham energizer, but some vol-
unteers - including Sharon Wade - are
were in until the study was over. Patients already reporting benefits.
who wore the real device experienced a "I've seen a remarkable improvement,"
statistically significant decrease in pain, says Wade. "My feet used to become
burning and tingling, as well as a signifi- crampy and swollen, and I had trouble
cant improvement in walking, over the walking, but no longer."
individuals in the comparison grQup. It took a little over a month for Wade to
"The analgesic effects were ~equal to or see any effects. But relief came faster for
better than those achieved with painkilling another study participant, Carol Thorn.
drugs, and there were no side effects,with a "My feet stopped burning and tingling
device that costs about $100 apiece," Dr. within a day or two," Thorn says.
Weintraub reports. Thorn was diagnosed with diabetes ALZHEIMER1S
For the current trial, Dr. Weintraub and about 15 years ago, when she was 50. She ".. ~ ,._....-
his associates want to recruit 250 volun- finished her official three-month stint DISEASEI
teers with moderate to severe neuropathy with the device just before last Christmas. Paul Dash, MD
Nicole ViJlemarette.Pittman, PhD
at 12 to 15 university diabetes centers and She still doesn't know if her unit was a
10 private medical groups nationwide. sham or the real thing, but she found it so
This stUdy also is double-blind, so the par- helpful nevertheless that she kept it and "
continues to use it. Volunteers are ~AMERJCANAC\DfMYOF
allowed to keep the device, which is man-
"AN Pllttss QUAllr.,
ufactured and provided by the Nikken 0' l I r [ G uli
Corp. of Irvine, Calif.
The energizer weighs three pounds. Its
light and convenient enough for Wade, who Alzheimer's
lives in the Bronx, to take to her job as a
social worker so she can use it for the requi- Disease
site two hours a day while sitting at her
desk. Thorn, who lives in Fishkill, N.Y., M
took hers on her Christmas vacation: She Nicole PhD
Three magnets in each of the simply packed it in her suitcase and
energizer's footplates are designed checked it on the airplane.
"This book is an essential
to deliver therapeutic waves.
"Wewant to offerthe diabetic population tool for all families coping
ticipants are randomly assigned either to a a truly effective treatment for neuropathy,"
with Alzheimer's disease."
working energizer or a sham device that Dr. Weintraub says. 'We're hoping that this -Austin J. Sumner,MD
feels as if it's working but is not actually study willprovide the objective evidence we Chair,AANFoundation
delivering any magnetic energy: Neither need to demonstrate that the device relieves
they nor any of the investigators will know neuropathic symptoms."
which type of device they've received until Carol Thorn, for one, is convinced.
the study is completed. "The machine is great," she declares. "I NEUROLOGY
The participants undergo an objective don't want to let it go." 1m!
assessment of nerve function just before OrderOnline
they start using the device and again when For more information on this trial, www.aan.com/store
the 90-day study period is up. They are also contact Dr. Weintraub at 914-941-0788
required to keep a daily log in which they or email@example.com. OrderByPhone
rate their pain on a scale ranging from 0 8
(nonexistent) to 10 (most severe). In addi- For clinical trials listed in the AAN's
tion, the researchers will compare biopsies joumaiNeurology, visit
taken from 40 randomly selected patients www.neurology.orglclinicaltrials. (651)695-2717