Watch cable TV for very long these days (or even infomercials on the networks on weekends) and you’re bound to see some type of copper-infused product meant to aid in pain prevention or reduced arthritic inflammation.
There are copper bracelets, which for a long time were so popular with middle-aged golfers that I began to take notice of someone on the course that didn’t have one.
And there are countless sleeves offered, which can wrap a joint — or even a full limb — with the magic healing powers of copper.
Lately I’ve seen copper-infused socks advertised, and I’m willing to bet that if there’s a body part that is prone to inflammation, there’s a product to cover it out there.
It also seems more products and companies than ever are hawking product, which makes one wonder: Do these products deliver what they say they can?
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First off, since all the products I could find online are not being sold as either drugs or medical devices, they are not governed by any regulations in this country. The companies can claim virtually whatever they want without having to back it up with scientific research.
After checking a few reputable websites, I could find no scientific research that backs any copper or copper-infused products as being an aid to pain prevention or healing.
WebMd.com cited a 2013 study in which 70 patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in a research study used various devices over a five-week period, then were evaluated, looking for changes in inflammation levels.
Patients were told beforehand that one of the devices may not contain copper, covering the placebo effect.
In the end, “no meaningful effects” were discovered through the use of any of the devices.
The researchers also suggested arthritis patients would be better served to invest in fish-oil supplements, which have been shown to provide a measure of inflammation relief.
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For those of you not familiar with the placebo effect, it is a scientific term to describe the change in a patient who was part of a study but did not receive any drug or aid, other than a placebo pill or placebo device. In other words, the difference the patient reported would have to be chalked up to a mental confidence that whatever they received made a difference in their perception of their condition.
Placebo effects happen all the time, and can be compared to the “power of suggestion,” which is also the basis for hypnosis.
So all those golfers wearing copper bracelets? As long as they believe wearing the bracelet helped with their pain, what they don’t know won’t hurt them and could actually ease their levels of perceived pain.
All told, copper devices are said to do no harm to an individual. Our bodies are partially made up of copper, and copper worn near the skin is not going to cause any unhealthful condition.
Copper is needed within the body to produce and store iron.
Copper deficiency within the body is rare, according to WebMd. We gain copper through our gastrointestinal tract as a trace mineral in the foods we eat. Copper deficiency sometimes occurs in people who get too much zinc from diet or supplements, have intestinal bypass surgery, or are fed by feeding tubes. Malnourished infants can also have a deficiency.
Copper supplements are regarded as safe, unless a patient ingests more than 10 milligrams per day orally. Kidney pain, vomiting, anemia and heart problems can occur in those ingesting too much.
Copper is particularly found in nuts, organ meats, seafood, seeds, wheat bran cereals, grain products, and even cocoa products. Our bodies store copper mostly in the bones and muscles, with our livers regulating the amount of copper that is in the blood.
Arthritis sufferers are better served by starting an exercise program to deal with pain and inflammation. As always, consult a physician before starting any new exercise routine.
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Jerry Hitchcock can be reached at 664-8176, Ext. 2017, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter at HitchTheWriter.