Friday, 1 June 2012

Power Balance Bracelets – Revolutionary Technology or Hocus Pocus....

Rosario Colomba MAT, CSCS, CK

There has been plenty of hype surrounding the benefits of power balance bracelets. These include making improvements to your core strength & flexibility. Furthermore, they are said to improve peak performance by keeping your energy fields in balance. Even further supporting these claims are the endorsements by some of the best athletes in their respective sports. Why wouldn’t they work? Well that’s what I will attempt to uncover in this installment of my blog series.

A recent study was performed at the University of Wisconsin–La Crosse & published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine. Forty-two NCAA athletes were tested under two conditions – with a placebo bracelet and with the Power Balance bracelet. Two sets of tests were performed for trunk flexibility, balance, strength, and lower body power (vertical jump). In this double blind study, each subject had an opportunity to wear each of the bracelets. When researchers compared the two trials they found no significant difference between the tests performed with the placebo vs. the tests performed with the Power Balance bracelets. 

Another interesting finding that came from this study is that when researchers compared the results of the first set of tests to the second set, scores improved significantly from the first to the second trial regardless of the bracelet worn. This suggests that performance improved on the second trial because subjects were either more warmed up or more familiar with the tests. This sounds awfully familiar to the way sales people market the bracelet. They ask you to do a balance test, first without the bracelet and then with the bracelet on. The majority of time people perform better on their attempts with the bracelets on because of a phenomenon known as neuromuscular adaptation and, as mentioned earlier, the subject’s familiarity with the set of tests.  
Consumer watchdogs are also starting to take notice. Just recently the Australian distributor of the Power Balance bracelet was placed into receivership. Undertakings by the ACCC (Australian Competition & Consumer Commission) to stop the company from claiming the wristbands could improve balance virtually evaporated sales.

So what about all of these electro-magnetic frequencies (EMFs) that are racing around, possibly throwing our bodies out of balance? The list of associated EMF health problems is pretty extensive and ranges from cancer to high blood pressure. Many studies are now backing these claims and are showing that the levels and types of frequencies in your regular environment can have an impact on your health. Over time you can develop EMF hypersensitivity. Imagine your body as having a cup that absorbs EMF emissions. Once this cup gets full the health problems can begin. Some of the easier ways you can avoid these adverse health effects is distancing yourself from the source of the frequencies and limiting your length of exposure.

The amount of information & research on electro-magnetic frequencies is enough to create a small encyclopedia. Currently, there are even treatments being done to manipulate the body’s natural frequency to treat addiction, depression, & certain health disorders like asthma. Furthermore, therapies like Reiki and the use of magnetic implements have been said to have many positive outcomes as well. Most notably, ionized bracelets like the ones manufactured by Power FX are said to produce many health benefits like pain reduction and increased energy. Yet due to the lack of specific scientific evidence, many doctors do not consider it as an effective medicinal tool. A study done by Dr. Bratton of the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida showed no medical benefit when using ionized bracelets for treating pain. Dr. Bratton randomized 305 patients who complained of musculoskeletal pain with half wearing an ionized bracelet and the other half wearing a placebo. Over the 4 weeks of the study, both groups had some reduction in standardized pain scores, but there was no difference in the reduction of global pain scores, and no difference for the specific site of major pain.
It should be noted that there are indeed studies that have shown a reduction in pain when wearing an ionized bracelet but they are in conjunction with other medical therapies. Therefore, the current general consensus is that any health benefit produced by the use of ionized bracelets is likely because of the placebo effect.