Do copper bracelets really help with arthritis? Here's what you need to know

Ever wondered why copper bracelets are promoted for arthritis relief and if they really work? I’ve done the research to give you the low-down on this debate.

Copper is a metal, which has been used for diverse items such as tools, weapons and jewellery for thousands of years. In the body, copper is a vital trace element that supports iron absorption and the nervous system.

For optimum health, copper works in synergy with zinc. Research suggests the ideal zinc to copper ratio is approximately 10:1. Both trace minerals are so-called ‘antagonists’. This means if your zinc level is low, your copper level is likely to rise and vice versa.

Both zinc and copper deficiency can lead to significant health issues, such as low immune response, digestive issues and increased inflammation. Copper deficiency in particular is linked with arthritis, which is why some people wear copper bracelets. The theory is that small particles of copper are absorbed through the skin and into the blood stream.

Is there any evidence behind this? No, not really. Research has not found any connection between copper bracelets and relief of arthritis symptoms. The most recent study, conducted by the University of York in the UK, found no difference in symptoms between wearers of copper, magnetic and placebo bracelets.

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Why do some people swear by them? Reviews from buyers of copper bracelets, on shopping websites, paint a mixed picture. Some people are absolutely convinced it helps with their arthritis, in particular of the wrist. Others report no change in symptoms.

Doctors explain this with the ‘placebo effect’ working for some people. If you believe something will help, it may make you feel better, regardless of any real benefit. It’s just your thoughts. Another reason is the fluctuation of symptoms for chronic disease patients. If you buy a bracelet when you feel at your worst (a natural time to look for additional help) and the end of your flare-up coincides with wearing the new bracelet, you might think it helped.

I am all for trying alternative therapies and finding new ways to decrease arthritis symptoms. However, copper bracelets are not on my list of recommendations. Instead, have your copper and zinc levels checked by your doctor. That way you know whether you have a deficiency or not – much better than guessing.

If you are deficient, check your diet first. There are plenty of foods to help you get more copper into your system, such as seafood, nuts, legumes and – yay! – dark chocolate. All of these foods are part of a balanced, anti-inflammatory diet, which is crucial for arthritis sufferers anyway.

What is your experience with copper bracelets? Have they worked for you?