Fact or Myth: Do Copper Bracelets Ease Arthritis?

This is MYTH.

Many arthritis sufferers swear that copper bracelets ease arthritis. It’s an ancient folk remedy that has held strong even in modern times; however, research doesn’t back up these claims. Scientists are chalking up any perceived benefit of copper bracelets on arthritis to the placebo effect. If the belief is strong enough, even the pain and inflammation may subside, causing temporary relief to arthritis symptoms.

How Copper Bracelets Are Thought to Work copper bracelets

Proponents believe that copper bracelets ease arthritis because tiny flecks of copper are absorbed into the skin, where they then work to restore joint cartilage that has been ravaged by arthritis. There is no clinical evidence that copper bracelets reduce pain and inflammation caused by arthritis, and there is fairly good evidence that copper bracelets do not impart any clinical effect.

What Science Shows

According to a 5-week study published 2013 in PLOS ONE, copper bracelets had no effect at all on arthritis symptoms. Seventy people with rheumatoid arthritis wore either copper bracelets or (unbeknownst to them) magnetized straps that weren’t copper or magnetized but a placebo. Each day researchers assessed joint swelling, redness, and pain, and each week ran blood tests. Participants answered questions about pain levels, and researchers factored in variables, such as medications and level of disease activity. Neither the copper bracelets nor the placebo had any clinical effect, not even a minimum clinical improvement of 20%.

The Importance of Dietary Copper

Copper may not be able to be absorbed into the skin by way of a bracelet, but as a dietary element it’s absolutely essential to the body. Copper helps build collagen, improve iron absorption, and fuel energy production. You get copper from:

  • Beef liver
  • Oysters
  • Crab
  • Mushrooms
  • Cashew nuts
  • Lentils
  • Almonds
  • Chocolate

Other Alternative Treatments for Arthritis

There are other alternative treatments for arthritis that have proven more effective than copper bracelets. Supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin, boswellia, aloe vera, cat’s claw, eucalyptus, and cinnamon, and complementary medicines such as acupuncture and massage have shown promise, as have alternative movement therapies like tai chi, yoga, and qi gong.