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    Ultimate Guide to Pulsed Electronic Magnetic Field Therapy

    Ultimate Guide to Pulsed Electronic Magnetic Field Therapy
    October 5, 2023 Vitality Pro

    Ultimate Guide to Pulsed Electronic Magnetic Field Therapy

    Pulsed electromagnetic field therapy (PEMF) is a type of electromagnetic that encourages optimal cellular communication by sending impulses to the cells. This therapy is believed to reduce pain and offer a variety of benefits for health and wellness. It works by sending waves of electromagnetic energy through the body to encourage cell healing and function, using a variety of PEMF devices that can either target specific areas of the body or provide full-body treatment.

    Origins of PEMF

    PEMF therapies have a complex history that dates back nearly two millennia to the ancient Greeks. The Greeks used ‘lodestones’ to reduce body pain, soothe aches and tension, and deliver other benefits. These stones were naturally magnetic and were placed at strategic points on the body for optimum effect. This would be the first instance of the use of electromagnetic field therapy to treat physical ailments. Since then, modern science has determined that lodestone treatments are not actually effective. However, the concept of using electromagnetic energy to promote health and wellness became the foundation of today’s PEMF therapies and devices.

    During the 1800s, scientists began to use electricity to power a range of new technologies. Electric therapies were used to treat and stimulate muscles and circulation. Today, this practice is referred to as electromagnetic therapy, and it was even studied by Nikola Tesla, who recognised its potential many years before the PEMF machines we know entered the market. The PEMF therapy we use today was developed during the 1960s, and since then, the FDA has approved pulsed electromagnetic field therapy for a range of conditions, including brain cancer, non-union fractures, and more.

    The benefits of PEMF therapies are delivered through specialised devices which direct minute amounts of energy towards specific areas of the body. Healthline notes that this type of therapy is being used to treat both chronic and acute pain conditions, primarily by reducing inflammation. It is believed that PEMF devices boost circulation and enhance cellular function by improving the body’s ability to eliminate nitric oxide. This elimination is a widespread healing mechanism that reduces inflammation after injury.

    The Science Behind PEMF Therapy

    PEMF therapies use low-level electromagnetic radiation exposure to balance and up-regulate the functioning of cells in the human body. PEMF devices generate pulses of electromagnetic energy which activate the body’s natural mechanisms of repair, assisting in the healing and regeneration of organs, tissues, bones, and injuries.

    This therapy is believed to stimulate cell charge, which plays a vital role in cellular health and function. The PEMF energy bursts penetrate deep into muscles, cells and tissues, enhancing blood flow and promoting damaged tissue regeneration. PEMF therapy is non-invasive, accessible at home, and safe to use, with researchers noting few to no side effects when used as indicated. It is widely used to reduce inflammation, swelling and pain while improving mobility, lowering stress levels, and enhancing physical and mental health. 

    There are different types of electromagnetic energy therapies used, and different types present in nature as well. Magnetic fields can either be pulsed or static. 

    Static fields have no changes in intensity or flux density, and pulsed fields display changes in intensity at various frequencies, typically greater than one cycle per second or 1Hz. According to Dr Pawluk, pulsed treatments can accelerate the process of phosphorylation. This helps to activate and deactivate multiple cellular processes and enzymes, stimulate ATP production in the cells, and promote nerve cell growth.

    Types of PEMF Devices

    There are a variety of different PEMF devices available on the market today. Some are engineered for personal use at home, and others are designed for use in clinical settings only

    •  Low frequency devices. These PEMF devices use an electromagnetic field intensity of less than 1,000 Gauss units to provide safe and effective treatments. Low frequency devices are indicated for the treatment of conditions affecting the musculoskeletal and bone tissues, including arthritis, osteoporosis, delayed union fractures, joint pain, sprains, lumbago, and epicondylitis.
    • High frequency devices. These PEMF devices offer high intensity electromagnetic radiation, typically ranging from 1,000 Gauss units to as much as 50,000 Gauss units. They are usually used in medical and clinical settings, and treatment sessions with these machines may be shorter than sessions of low frequency PEMF treatment. High frequency PEMF devices are typically used for acute issues and targeted treatment for pain and inflammation.
    • Portable devices. Portable PEMF devices usually offer low intensity electromagnetic radiation and are designed to be small and compact enough for use at home or on the go. They also tend to be more cost-effective than other types of PEMF devices intended for clinical use.
    • Professional grade devices. Professional grade PEMF machines are specifically designed to provide consistent, repetitive treatments for medical offices, therapy clinics, and other professional treatment facilities. These devices are similar to medical-grade devices and are often larger and more complex in design than machines intended for at-home use. They also have multiple settings that allow users to change the intensity and frequency of their treatments as they see fit in order to achieve a customised treatment experience. 

    Conditions Treated with PEMF Therapy

    PEMF therapies have been used successfully to treat a wide range of health conditions. Studies note that it has been utilised to manage post-surgical pain and oedema, accelerate the healing of chronic wounds, promote angiogenesis and vasodilation, and decrease swelling and pain following injury. 

    PEMF for Nerve Damage

    Animal studies show that high-peak pulsed electromagnetic field therapies show promise in treating nerve damage and promoting the regeneration of damaged nerves. One clinical trial focused on how PEMF affected common peroneal nerve lesions in male rats. 

    Each test subject received 15 minutes of PEMF therapy per day from 3.5 days to 8 weeks after the injury. Post damage, the scientists noted significant differences between PEMF-treated rats and those treated with a placebo. PEMF was shown to:

    • Speed up the recovery of nerve degeneration and limb injuries
    • Accelerate the regeneration of myelinated axons
    • Reduce perineural, intraneural and epineural fibrosis
    • Increase the luminal cross-sectional area of the rats’ intraneural vessels

    Although further research is needed, the data suggests that PEMF therapy could be an effective way to accelerate healing after nerve damage in humans.

    PEMF for Depression

    Pulsed electromagnetic field therapy has also been shown in studies to effectively treat depression, even in individuals with treatment-resistant depression. One study treated individuals with low intensity transcranial PEMF, or T-PEMF. It found that the treatment group experienced a 62% reduction in depression symptoms according to the Depression Rating Scale after 5 weeks of treatment. 

    The researchers concluded that T-PEMF therapy could play an important role as an additional treatment option for depression and treatment-resistant depression types.

    PEMF for Weight Loss

    A few studies indicate that PEMF treatments could also help to promote sustainable weight loss. A 9 week study of 16 obese adults found that patients who received transcranial magnetic stimulation (a type of PEMF therapy) experienced a 34% reduction in cravings and an average of 3.2% of their body mass.

    Another research paper from 2017 notes that TMS therapies can alter the composition of gut bacteria, helping to improve a variety of metabolic and endocrinological factors implicated in the onset of obesity. In the study, the TMS treatment group had lost 4% of their body fat and 3% of their total body weight after 5 weeks, while also showing altered gut microbiota and increased levels of beneficial, anti-inflammatory bacterial species.

    PEMF for Cancer

    Research published in the journal Cancer Medicine suggests that PEMF therapy offers several advantages when it comes to cancer treatments. These therapies are safe, non toxic to healthy cells, and non invasive, and can be combined with other therapies to enhance the results of treatment protocols. The researchers found that PEMF stimulation has been used with success to treat cancers of the prostate, lung, breast, ovary, skin, pancreas, colon, thyroid and bladder, both in vivo and in vitro. 

    The study notes that all groups treated with PEMF in in vivo studies showed a slowed tumour growth rate compared to controls. This confirms the ability of this therapy to modulate the electrochemistry and physiology of cancer cells while regulating the processes of mitosis and cell membrane function. PEMFs have also been shown to induce changes in membrane transport capacity by affecting the ionic valves and osmotic potential of cells. These actions reduce cell-level stress factors, improve DNA transcription rates, and modulate immune responses to improve health outcomes in cancer patients.

    PEMF for Fractures

    A study review on the use of PEMF to promote bone healing shows evidence to suggest that PEMF can increase healing rates and relieve the pain of fractures. The research shows that PEMF can accelerate healing times, although more evidence is needed. 

    The review pooled the results of 14 studies to determine that the healing rate in the PEMF-treated groups was 79.7%, compared to 64.3% in the control groups. This suggests that PEMF treatment can be used as an adjunctive therapy to promote enhanced bone healing after fractures, breaks, and other bone-related injuries.

    PEMF for Knee Pain

    PEMF is widely used for treating pain caused by a range of conditions, including osteoarthritis. Studies show that compared to placebos, PEMF displays beneficial effects when it comes to reducing pain and stiffness in joints and enhancing mobility and physical function in patients with osteoarthritis.

    The ability of pulsed electromagnetic energy to reduce tissue inflammation could also play a role in PEMF’s capabilities when it comes to alleviating knee pain.

    PEMF for Arthritis

    Scientific studies show evidence that PEMF treatment may enhance the growth of engineered cartilage, while promoting repair of this tissue at the same time. PEMF has been hailed as a potential low risk, low cost, and non-invasive treatment for promoting early cartilage repair and reducing the pain and stiffness associated with arthritis.

    PEMF for Erectile Dysfunction

    There is evidence to suggest that regular treatment with pulsed magnetic field therapy could alleviate erectile dysfunction to a degree. One study assessed 20 volunteers with the condition, who were randomly assigned to treatment or placebo groups. 

    In the treatment group, markers such as intensity and duration of erection, sexual activity, and overall well being all improved significantly at the end of the study, with 80% of the group members reporting beneficial effects. The remaining participants experienced ‘minor improvements’, but their results may have been influenced by a suspected viral infection. 

    PEMF for Pain

    A double-blind, placebo controlled study on 63 patients with mechanical neck pain found PEMF effective for relieving pain and discomfort. The patients were divided into two separate groups. Both groups received 15 sessions of physical therapy over 3 weeks, and the treatment group received 20 minutes of PEMF therapy. 

    Both groups experienced improvements according to Short Form-36 (SF-36), visual analogue scale (VAS), Neck Pain Disability Scale (NPDS), and Physician Global Assessment (PGA) parameters. The study found that while PEMF therapy is safe for patients with chronic neck pain, more research is needed to determine if this therapy is superior to conventional physical therapy when it comes to improving pain and mobility.

    PEMF for Osteoporosis

    Osteoporosis is a chronic condition characterised by higher morbidity risk and significant economic burdens, especially in the case of postmenopausal osteoporosis. A meta-analysis on the efficacy of PEMF for treating the condition assessed 19 studies and 1303 patients. It found that compared to conventional medication regimens, PEMF combined with these medications significantly increased the bone mineral density of femoral and lumbar vertebrae, Ward’s triangle, and biochemical indicators of osteocalcin, BSAP, and ALP. 

    The therapy effectively alleviated pain too. Researchers suggest that PEMF can be viewed as a viable complementary therapy for treating osteoporosis in postmenopausal women – and these findings suggest that the treatment can be used to enhance the effects of osteoporosis medications in other patient groups as well.

    PEMF for Back Pain

    In a randomised double-blind placebo-controlled trial from 2020, researchers assessed 42 patients with chronic lower back pain who were randomised into a treatment group or a placebo group. The results of the study showed that the group treated with low frequency magnetic field therapy over 9 weeks experienced greater improvements in disability and pain compared to the placebo group. 

    These improvements were also evident from week 3 of the treatment protocol, while the placebo group only began to experience statistically significant improvements in pain at week 6. The researchers concluded that PEMF therapy improved disability and pain in patients with chronic back pain.

    PEMF for Neuropathy

    Diabetic neuropathy is a painful condition characterised by nerve inflammation and damage caused by high levels of circulating blood glucose. In one study, subjects with stage II or III diabetic neuropathy were randomly assigned to use PEMF devices or placebo devices as a treatment medium for foot pain for 3 months. 

    The researchers noted that neuropathy symptoms were reduced by 44% in the treatment group compared to 31% in the placebo group. They highlighted that 29% of the PEMF-treated subjects displayed an increase in distal leg epidermal nerve fibre density (ENFD) of 0.5SDs or greater – a significant indicator of lower pain scores – while the placebo group did not display any increases.

    PEMF for Anxiety

    A 12-week clinical trial conducted on PEMF therapy in 2019 found promise for using pulsed electromagnetic energy to alleviate anxiety. The study determined that PEMF can effectively treat not only anxiety, but pain and depression as well. Thus improving patients’ quality of life considerably when compared to hot pack treatments and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation therapies.

    Another Harvard study published in 2014 noted that patients with depression experienced more than 10% improvements in their symptoms – including anxiety – by undergoing 20 minute PEMF therapy sessions. 

    PEMF for Sleep

    Pulsed electromagnetic field therapy may be able to improve sleep duration and quality in people experiencing sleep disruptions. In a 4-week, placebo controlled study, PEMF therapy was tested as a possible treatment for insomnia. The study separated 100 patients into either placebo or active treatment groups, and further divided them into groups with sleep latency, interrupted sleep, or nightmares.

    The active treatment group experienced significant improvements in sleep latency, interruption frequency, daytime sleepiness, concentration levels, and headaches. While the placebo group also experienced improvements, the active treatment group’s results were substantially more positive. 70% of this group experienced complete or substantial relief, compared to just one patient from the placebo group.

    PEMF for Exercise Performance and Recovery

    Research indicates that Bio-electromagnetic-energy-regulation (BEMER) therapy – a type of PEMF therapy – can optimise physical recovery rates and decrease fatigue during and after physical activity by increasing circulation in microvessels. One study focused on 14 male cross country runners during pre-season training. The PEMF group was administered BEMER therapy before and after each of their training sessions for a total of 12 treatment sessions. 

    Researchers found significant effects for absolute and relative ventilatory thresholds, heart rates at VT, respiration rates at VT, and maximum heart rates for the treatment group. The results indicate that PEMF therapy can be used to improve ventilatory thresholds and increase exercise performance, while also promoting accelerated recovery after periods of intense exercise.

    PEMF for Longevity

    Research from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine finds that stem cells in the hypothalamic region of the brain help to modulate the speed of the natural process of ageing. The stem cells achieve this through the release of microRNA molecules. 

    One study on using PEMF therapies to treat Alzheimer’s disease discovered that pulsed electromagnetic therapy can simulate epigenetic regulations such as those modulated by microRNA molecules. This helps to ‘rebalance’ the neural pathways in the brain, partly reversing brain damage that could otherwise lead to the onset of neurodegenerative disorders.

    Moreover, PEMF has been found to hinder inflammation and protect cells against free radicals and oxidative stress. A state which produces low grade, chronic inflammation and has been linked to a range of age-related diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, and metabolic disorder.

    How to Use PEMF Devices

    When you start to use a PEMF device, it’s essential that you begin your treatments with a trial period. This will provide you with enough time to learn how to use the device correctly and to notice any benefits or side effects that occur. Your usage of your device will depend on the conditions for which you are using it, and the type of PEMF machine you invest in.

    If you are seeking relief from pain, inflammation or chronic conditions such as osteoarthritis, opt for a PEMF device or PEMF mat that emits low frequency radiation. Low frequency machines have been proven safe for long term use, and can even be used to treat certain conditions and diseases during sleep.

    If you will be using your device for a local injury or an acute condition, choose a portable device that can deliver targeted treatment to the specific conditions. 

    Always consult a doctor or qualified medical professional before starting a PEMF treatment regime, particularly if you have any existing chronic health conditions. Your doctor can help you to determine a safe and effective treatment regime and session durations depending on the nature of your needs. 

    Do not use PEMF devices on children or pregnant women, as the effects on these patient groups need additional research in order to establish safety.

    PEMF for Pets

    PEMF is a useful tool for treating a wide range of health conditions in animals, including dogs, cats, and horses. Its primary mechanisms are similar in pets to in humans. PEMF works by promoting healing at a cellular level, reducing inflammation, and helping to alleviate pain.

    The US FDA has approved the use of PEMF therapies in animals to treat:

    • Inflammation (including tendonitis, osteomyelitis, and pain)
    • Bone anomalies and fractures
    • Lameness and disease of the vertebrae
    • Neurological disorders
    • Musculoskeletal conditions
    • Chronic diseases
    • Degenerative joint conditions 

    The Food and Drug Administration recommends PEMF as a therapy for spinal cord problems in animals, skin conditions,and complications arising from circulatory problems, cancers, and diabetes.

    PEMF Therapy in Combination with Other Treatments

    PEMF’s proven safety profile means that it can be combined with a range of additional treatments and therapies to enhance or stimulate their effects.

    • Combining PEMF with physical therapy. An aforementioned study of 63 patients with neck pain found that patients treated with a combination of physical therapy and PEMF therapy over the course of 3 weeks displayed the greatest improvements in pain markers according to 4 key measurement scales. 
    • Combining PEMF with acupuncture. According to Dr Pawluk, PEMF therapy can be used in conjunction with acupuncture, as magnetic fields are theorised to stimulate acupuncture meridians and points. He notes that as magnetic fields act directly on tissues and cells, PEMF treatment can be used together with acupuncture to gain the benefits of both treatment and expand the treatment area range, while accelerating cellular repair in tissues of concern. Pawluk recommends starting with a PEMF treatment and then following with acupuncture to increase the therapeutic actions of each medium.
    • Combining PEMF with massage therapy. Massage works directly on the muscles and soft tissues to reduce strain, spasm, pain and tightness, while improving circulation and prompting the release of endorphins. Since a variety of waste products and toxins are stored in muscle tissues, regular massage can help to eliminate these toxins and promote more optimal health. PEMF can be used as a prior treatment to relax the muscles before massage is administered, reducing the amount of work needed by a massage therapist to stimulate muscle tissues at their deepest levels.
    • Combining PEMF with other alternative therapies. PEMF can also be combined with chiropractic treatment practices, infrared and laser treatments, chelation therapy, light therapy, ozone therapy, and psychotherapy to complement or enhance the benefits obtained through these treatment mediums.

    PEMF and EMF

    An EMF is simply an electromagnetic field. The EMFs produced by PEMF machines are different to other electromagnetic fields. They differ in terms of duration, frequency, and focus. 

    Various frequencies of electromagnetic radiation affect cells in differing ways. Ionising radiation, for instance, has a high frequency and is not safe at high levels of exposure, while non-ionising radiation has a much lower frequency, making regular exposure safer. PEMF devices generate electromagnetic fields at low frequencies, typically between 50 and 60 Hz. 

    EMF pulsation also needs to be taken into account. PEMF therapy exudes waves of electromagnetic energy which stimulate and relax the cells in an alternate fashion. This stimulation and relaxation promotes optimal cellular function, even at a molecular level. There are some concerns around the electromagnetic frequencies which cause so-called ‘dirty electricity’ discharge and may have harmful effects on health in large doses of exposure. However, the electromagnetic spectrum is large and diverse, and ranges from microwaves and X-ray waves to radio waves, infrared, and more.

    The spectrum of EMF used for PEMF therapies is relatively narrow and is designed to support the body’s natural processes while using a wavelength with a long form and low frequency which can effectively penetrate the tissues while posing no risks to health. Quality clinical, medical, and at-home PEMF devices are thoroughly tested to ensure their safety, even during extended treatment regimes, as long as users adhere to the safety instructions provided.

    Conclusion

    There is a vast and growing body of research indicating that PEMF therapy offers a variety of benefits for cellular, physical, mental and emotional health. 

    Pulsed electromagnetic field therapy is successfully being used to treat a wide range of conditions, spanning from chronic pain, osteoarthritis and physical injury to diabetic neuropathy, depression, anxiety, and even cancers. In the future, even more research is expected to be conducted into this promising therapy in a bid to expand its range of applications and further optimise human healthcare and longevity.

    If you are interested in trying PEMF therapies for yourself, be sure to approach a qualified medical professional to identify the best PEMF device and treatment regime for your needs. At-home PEMF systems offer portable, convenient treatments that can be used for targeted or full-body healing as needed.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Are there any safety concerns about using PEMF therapies?

    PEMF therapy devices supplied by reputable brands are considered a safe and non-invasive form of treatment for a range of conditions. If you have any pre-existing medical conditions or experience any unwanted side effects during treatment, speak to your healthcare provider to determine whether or not PEMF is right for your needs.

    Can PEMF therapy support cancer treatment?

    Research suggests that PEMF can be used as an effective supplemental treatment to provide support during cancer treatment and to inhibit cancerous cell growth to an extent.

    Is PEMF therapy safe during pregnancy?

    The safety of PEMF therapy for pregnant people has not yet been established. Avoid using PEMF devices if pregnant.

    Can you use PEMF therapy if you have a pacemaker?

    Most PEMF devices for home use discharge little electromagnetic energy, meaning that they should not interfere with the functioning of a pacemaker as long as the coil is not placed in direct proximity to the ICD or pacemaker. However, in the interests of safety, people using pacemakers should avoid using PEMF machines unless such use is indicated by a medical professional.

    What does PEMF therapy feel like?

    While the sensation of PEMF therapy differs between people, it is generally described as an energising sensation that feels and sounds similar to the electric buzz or hum of a hair clipping device.

    What is PEMF therapy used for?

    PEMF has a wide range of applications. It is often used to reduce pain and inflammation (caused by conditions such as osteoarthritis and neuropathy), promote and accelerate the healing of tissue, tendon and bone injuries, support cancer treatments, promote better sleep, and treat stress and anxiety.

    What should I expect from PEMF therapy?

    Before you begin any PEMF therapy sessions, be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure a safe and therapeutic experience. PEMF is non-invasive and non-painful; you may feel some tingling or pulsing sensations during your sessions. After your session, you may feel more relaxed and energised and experience quicker recovery after injury or physical activity.

    How does PEMF therapy reduce pain?

    PEMF reduces pain by stimulating changes and inducing apoptosis in lymphocytes, inhibiting their production to lower inflammation and associated pain. 

    Glossary of Technical Terms

    Apoptosis: The programmed, natural death of cells which forms part of normal development processes.

    Diabetic neuropathy: Nerve damage caused by high levels of circulating blood glucose present in patients with diabetes.

    Epicondylitis: Inflammation of the tendons which surround the epicondyle. One common example is the condition of ‘tennis elbow’.

    In vitro: Scientific research and tests conducted outside of an organism, usually in a petri dish or test tube.

    In vivo: Scientific research performed inside of an organism. 

    Osteoarthritis: A condition characterised by deterioration of joints and surrounding cartilage, causing inflammation and pain.

    Osteomyelitis: A bacterial or fungal infection of the bones.

    PEMF: An abbreviation of pulsed electromagnetic field therapy.

    Phosphorylation: A process in which a phosphate group attaches itself to an ion or molecule. Protein phosphorylation is responsible for activating a wide range of enzymes in the human body.