Magnet Store Works On Pain. Sufferers find relief naturally at Encinitas shop.

Encinitas - When Inga Podolsky suffered a debilitating pinched nerve in her lower back 10 years ago, doctors recommended she undergo surgery to relieve her suffering.

"It hurt so much I couldn't sleep for weeks," she recalled.

But fearing the operation could leave her paralyzed, Podolsky decided not to take the medical advice.

Instead, the Leucadia resident skeptically followed a friend's suggestion and tried an alternative health treatment that uses magnets to alleviate pain.

"At first I didn't want to try it," said Podolsky, who was a registered nurse in Russia. "It seemed too simple. But my friend said that I didn't have anything to lose, so I tried it."

After wearing a magnetic back brace for seven ours, Podolsky said she had forgotten about her back problem and was only reminded of it when her husband, Nick, asked her how she was feeling.

Today, Podolsky and her husband are such firm advocates of the benefits of magnetic therapy that they own and operate Buy-A-Mag, a health shop in Leucadia that sells a variety, of magnet products they say can be used for the treatment of inflamed joints and to speed up the growth of cartilage cells. "I probably would not be involved in this if I had not had such a strong experience myself," Inga Podolsky said.

The Podolskys say holding a magnet over the affected area gives the body an extra magnetic field that works with the body's natural magnetic field to boost cell production. They point to volumes of medical and anecdotal information claiming that iron and oxygen molecules in blood respond to the magnets. The reaction causes blood flow to increase, which encourages the body to heal itself and boost its energy and reduce pain with no side effects. "It's so simple," Podolsky said, "It takes away from the mystery of science. 'Magnets won't cure you, but it will increase blood circulation to help the body heal itself," she added.

Magnetic therapy, first written about 4,000 years ago in the Chinese "Yellow Emperor's Book of Internal Medicine," has its share of believers and critics. Mainstream medicine dismisses magnetic therapy, but many doctors who treat arthritic patients swear by the method. They say it also relaxes tense muscles, boosts the immune system and relieves stress, sciatica, asthma, migraines and carpal tunnel syndrome. But other medical experts remain skeptical and call the magnets merely a placebo for those in pain. Skeptics who visit Buy-A-Mag are not encouraged to buy store products, but rather are handed a pile of brochures and medical information and encouraged to "educate themselves" Podolsky said.

The Buy-A-Mag store carries magnetic mattresses and pillow pads, shoe insoles, earrings, bracelets, necklaces, rings, lower-back belts and wraps for the knee, ankle and elbow. There also are magnetic toothbrushes and even magnetic pads for pets. Prices for items range from $25 for a pair of earrings to $249 for a mattress pad. 'People have told me they've seen animals fighting over the pads," Podolsky said. "They have an acute sense of survival and instinctively feel relief." To explain how the products work, the Podolskys host a free seminar at 10 a.m. every Friday in their shop at 336 N. Highway 101, three blocks north of Encinitas Boulevard.