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For more information, go to www.arthritisresearchuk.org

Most effective use of copper to relieve joint pain

Q) In the winter 2014 issue of Arthritis Today, Dennis Mardon wrote commending the virtues of copper shoe inserts, of which I had never heard. Copper bracelets have long been promoted as offering relief from joint pain but they obviously don't have such good contact with the body as a shoe insert would. Is there any evidence that copper particles can reduce joint pain? I have shaped orthotic insoles in my shoe to help with my arthritis. Is it possible to get shaped copper ones, or would a 'plain' copper insole slipped beneath my plastic, prescription one works, as it would not be in direct contact with my foot? I have a pacemaker and, if the copper is working by magnetism, could this have an adverse effect on the operation of the pacemaker.
Sarah Houghton, via email (Spring 2014)

A) There is no evidence that copper – bracelets or shoe inserts – is beneficial in rheumatoid arthritis or any other form of arthritis, including osteoarthritis. Originally, it was thought that a deficiency in copper was one of the causative factors in rheumatoid arthritis but subsequent research did not confirm this. About 10 years ago most people coming to my clinic as new patients were wearing copper bracelets: this prompted one of my colleagues to speculate that copper caused arthritis! Nowadays I see them less often, possibly because subsequent research has shown that there is no benefit. Some patients still wear them, commenting that the bluish/green tinge on the skin under the bracelet is evidence that they are working. I have not heard of copper poisoning from use of such devices.

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