Saturday 25 July 2009

Maplin Electronics selling quack medical devices?

I popped down to my local Maplin Electronics store today. I needed a few odds and ends in the electronics line, and found them quickly, but as I usually do I allowed time to browse around the store for anything particularly interesting. I did find a Freeview PVR that apparently records to external USB drives, which I thought was neat, though expensive at about £50 (considering it comes without storage). But that's by the by.

While browsing I noticed something on display called an "eye massager". I didn't pay it much attention, though I did wonder if it physically touched your eyes in some way, or simply showed you some soothing pictures. Then I forgot about it.

I don't go to the Maplin shop very often, so I picked up a copy of their Spring/Summer 2009 catalogue as it usually contains lots of useful info on all kinds of electronics-related stuff. Back home I continued my browsing, but this time in more detailed, printed form. And what did I find on page 529, in the Health section of the catalogue?

The Eye Massager is also on the Maplin website, and I reproduce the entry for this device below:
Product Features
  • Ideal for users of computers, long distance drivers, equipment operators and students and office users alike
  • Helps ease tired eyes, including swollen, sore, dry and over-sensitive eyes
  • Aids sleep by relaxing the brain and the eyes to induce a state of deep relaxation
  • Music therapy by listening to the soothing sounds of nature
  • Improves poor circulation around the eyes
  • Various operation states, including anti-clockwise/clockwise movement, gentle, intermediate and strong effect and wave effect
  • Timer function allows you to set the required workout time
  • Intensity adjustment adjusts the vibration

Eye strain is common with people who use a computer for long periods of time, when reading, long-distance drivers and when concentrating, which can lead to headaches or even migraines. It makes you feels tired, lethargic and reduces concentration.

Using this eye massager regularly can ease the problems above, making your eyes feel rejuvinated and ready for the hours ahead.

Now, here’s the science behind it all. Magnetic field, in the form of physical energy, when applied on special acupuncture points, can activate the function of the cell, enlarge the blood capillary and raise the level of oxygen supply, improving the nutrition state of tissues of cells, and balance the self-disciplined nerves.

Applying the above theory, and combining the curing theory of channel acupuncture in traditional Chinese medicine, this product uses both the magnetic acupuncture and mechanical acupuncture to activate the important acupuncture points around the eyes and harmonise the blood, thus improving the adjustment functions of the eye muscles and the eye nerves.

The state of relaxtion is further enhanced through musical therapy as you listen to the soothing sounds of nature for a complete stimulating sensation.

Powered by 2 x AA batteries, supplied

Bulk Prices Quantity Price including VAT :
1 £17.99
10 £15.83
Notice the paragraph beginning, "Now, here's the science behind it all." This paragraph and the one after contain some of the most nonsensical woo-woo pseudoscience I've ever come across. It has been shown beyond any scientific doubt that acupuncture doesn't work - its effects are no more beneficial than the effects of placebo. I am not a doctor, but "self-disciplined nerves"? "Harmonise the blood"? Harmonise with what?

Maplin's website has a FAQ section in the description of their products, and someone named Mick has asked one:

Q- Will these eye massagers relieve a migraine too? - Mick

Answer- This would depend upon the type of migrane you had and the severity but yes this should work.

Pardon me for being sceptical, but isn't this a little irresponsible? There's no disclaimer on the page (web or print) regarding the medical qualifications of the person answering the question. Maybe the type of migraine that the eye massager will relieve is the type that is susceptible to placebo. But considering the popular interpretation of "migraine" is that of a severe, throbbing headache accompanied by nausea and disturbed vision, I doubt the device would have any effect at all.

Nevertheless, I'm willing to be proved completely wrong on this. If anyone has references to decent quality clinical trials, studies or surveys that show that this eye massager is anything other than electronic snake oil, please post them in the comments.

(One last point to ponder: if the device was as effective as Maplin claim, I'd expect it to cost more than £17.99.)