Gaining in popularity in the body modification subculture is having a magnet implanted beneath the skin for the purpose of…well…we’re not quite sure what the point is! The procedure is known as “body hacking” or “bio-hacking.” People who’ve had it done report that they can now perform cool party tricks, such as picking up paperclips and bottle caps with the tip of their finger. (Guys, this implant could be a literal “chic magnet!”)
Magnet implants are generally inserted into a fingertip. The most common finger selected to be magnetized is the ring finger, but the pinky is also popular. People have also had magnets implanted on the back of their hand or inside their ear. One practitioner markets “Lover’s Magnets,” where one partner would have a magnet inserted in the tip of their ring finger while the other partner has a magnet inserted in the back of their hand, so that when they hold hands, interlocking their fingers, the 2 magnets snap together.
A small rare-earth magnet known as a neodymium magnet is used; neodymium magnets have replaced older types of magnets in products that require strong permanent magnets, including motors in cordless tools, computer hard disk drives, and magnetic fasteners. It’s a fairly quick procedure that takes about 15 to 20 minutes. The finger is marked at the incision spot where the magnet will be lodged, about one-quarter of an inch below the incision mark. If a body piercer is performing the procedure, injectable anesthesia cannot be used; only a medical practitioner is licensed to do so. Using a scalpel, the incision is made. Tissue elevators are then used to separate the tissue as the disc-shaped magnet is inserted and slid into place. The incision is sealed with surgical glue or stitches. Lastly, tissue compression is applied by wrapping the finger in surgical gauze.
Then it’s a matter of waiting for the tissue trauma to heal in order to fully employ the magnet. Some people report that the point of incision remains swollen and numb for a few weeks after the implant and that it takes about a month before their finger regains full sensation, but that doesn’t prevent others who have had the procedure from picking up paperclips a couple of days post-op.
Does a Magnet Implant Give You a “Sixth Sense”?
Some proponents say they gain a sixth sense once they have a magnet inside them. What they are referring to is the ability to sense magnetic fields via vibrations around the area of the implant when they are near any object that emits electromagnetic waves. For example, some feel their fingertips pulsating due to:
- Vibrations from a magnet located inside a cash register
- The tool under a checkout counter of clothing stores that removes security tags; this type of unit can send out magnetic waves that are strong enough to be felt several feet away
- The magnetic field pulsating from the fan inside a computer or laptop
- Portable digital devices such as iPads or Kindle products, which have magnets inside their speakers
- Electromagnetic waves given off by microwaves
- Magnetic currents in power transformers
Electromagnetic currents are what cause the vibrations in the implanted magnet, and these currents surround us daily. Some folks who have a magnet implant say they experience the world in a new way, as they discover magnetic fields they would normally not feel. Walking the streets of New York City, one person experienced vibrations caused by a subway power generator underground and from the giant fan that cooled the generator. He claims he can sense these vibrations from below the sidewalks all over Manhattan. Another magnet implant devotee says that whenever he sees an object labeled “magnetic,” he holds up his finger to see how strong the current is. He has noticed that each object has its own unique magnetic field, with different strengths and textures.
Other than performing parlor tricks and sensing vibrations from an invisible field of energy, there’s not much utility for a magnet implant. And, a few things can go wrong.
The Downside of Being Magnetized
At least one person we’ve researched has had a magnet implant in his pinky fingertip without incident for more than 3 years. However, things can get a little dicey. When magnet implants first arrived on the scene, there were more than a few instances with the first-generation magnets when the silicone encasing the magnet broke down and the magnet corroded inside the fingertip, which can be very painful. This happens a lot less nowadays, but there are still some reports of corrosion. That’s why high-quality, second-generation magnets should be used.
In addition, magnets can lose strength over the years. Also, some electronic devices have magnets powerful enough to flip an implanted magnet inside a fingertip, or pull the magnet to one side, which can cause pain and the need to massage the roving magnet back into its original place so it settles flat in the finger. Handling strong magnets or a magnet with an opposite polar pull can have the same shifting or quick-flip effect.
And, if one is to have an MRI, the magnet may have to be removed so as not to cause electronic interference or get ripped right out of the fingertip; a medical technician should be able to determine if that’s necessary. Over the past 6 years, there have been no reports of magnet-studded implants causing interference with security systems at airports, wiping out the magnetic strips on the back of credit cards, or causing any interference with smart phones or other electronic devices.
- Berg D. Body hacking: my magnetic implant. I Am Dann website. March 21, 2012. http://www.iamdann.com/2012/03/21/my-magnet-implant-body-modification.
- Fortey I. The 8 most horrifying body modifications. Cracked website. December 10, 2008. http://www.cracked.com/article_16853_the-8-most-horrifying-body-modifications_p2.html.
- Isaacson B. 5 body modifications that can give you a sixth sense. Huffington Post website. Updated June 26, 2013. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/27/body-modification_n_2956665.html.
- Magnetic FAQ. Steve Haworth Modified website. 2012. http://stevehaworth.com/main/?page_id=871.
- Neporent L. Magnet implants: sixth sense or nonsense? ABC News website. May 27, 2013. http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2013/05/27/magnet-implants-sixth-sense-or-nonsense/.