What Is Pulsed Electromagnetic Field (PEMF) Therapy?

Updated on November 11, 2019
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Chris is an engineer, thinker, and philosopher who enjoys exploring futuristic ideas and technology.

Is PEMF therapy all it's cracked up to be? Here's what you need to know about this new trend in physical recovery.
Is PEMF therapy all it's cracked up to be? Here's what you need to know about this new trend in physical recovery. | Source

At the cellular level, minor chemical imbalances or dysfunctions can contribute to a variety of diseases and conditions. In recent times, doctors and researchers around the world have begun using devices that can potentially mitigate cellular dysfunction using a controlled electromagnetic field. This technology is called pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) therapy and is being touted as a new alternative way to alleviate a wide variety of ailments and conditions.

What is this technology? Can it help you? In this article, I discuss some of the reported benefits and potential side effects of this novel therapeutic tool. I also share some examples of available PEMF devices and explain the controversy surrounding the efficacy of PEMF therapy.

What You Should Know About PEMF Therapy

  1. Potential Benefits
  2. The Importance of Electromagnetic Fields
  3. The PEMF Knee Brace and Other Available Devices
  4. Potential Side Effects
  5. Controversy

1. Potential Benefits

When used in combination with other types of treatments or by itself, PEMF therapy has been shown to reduce pain and inflammation and help promote healing of injuries. In addition, PEMF has been used to combat arthritis and to improve joint function.

Other potential benefits of PEMF therapy include increased energy, improved blood oxygenation, lower blood pressure, better sleep quality, and even cellular detoxification. It's been anecdotally reported that many elite athletes have used this technology to expedite their recoveries after intense workouts and to improve their stamina and endurance.

According to some research, PEMF therapy may help enhance muscle repair and improve cellular regeneration, which can help speed up injury recovery. In fact, one of the primary uses for PEMF therapy has been to promote bone fusion and healing after fractures and breaks.

PEMF therapy is growing in popularity with doctors and patients around the world because it is relatively inexpensive and generally regarded as safe to use. In Europe, doctors have been using PEMF therapy to treat patients for more than two decades.

Electromagnetic fields, although unseen, play a significant role in our physical health.
Electromagnetic fields, although unseen, play a significant role in our physical health.

2. Why Electromagnetic Fields?

Electromagnetic fields play a very important role in our daily health. At the cellular level, our bodies use electromagnetic signals to transmit information to and from the brain. Within our cells, biochemical processes are controlled by electromagnetic reactions that are occurring all of the time.

All interactions between our organs and our brains are controlled via electromagnetic transmissions. In fact, just like the earth itself, our bodies produce a detectable electromagnetic field. This field can either be disrupted (through exposure to negative electromagnetic fields) or enhanced, potentially affecting our overall health.

Since many interactions and processes within the body are electromagnetically governed, PEMF therapy is used to positively impact cell function by exploiting the body's natural dependence on electromagnetic energy.

The theory behind PEMF technology is that doctors can carefully control the amplitude, frequency, waveform, and pulse intensity of an electromagnetic field and direct the energy output to a specific part of the body or to the body as a whole.

3. The PEMF Knee Brace and Other Available Devices

There are several PEMF therapy devices currently available on the market. One of the most popular PEMF devices is a knee brace that is designed to reduce joint swelling, improve mobility, and relieve pain from arthritis or an injury. This device usually features thermal (heat) pads that work in conjunction with electromagnetic pulses. The FDA has already approved the use of this PEMF-enabled knee brace in America.

Other products that you or your doctor may find include PEMF pads and patches. Some are designed for specific parts of the body such as the lower back, upper back, or the neck.

These devices are typically available online from foreign retailers, and most have not been approved by the FDA. For this reason, the efficacy of these devices is suspect. Always consult with your healthcare practitioner before purchasing or using any PEMF therapy products for home use, including those already approved by the FDA.

Discomfort, lowered blood pressure, and decreased heart rate have been reported during the use of PEMF therapy devices.
Discomfort, lowered blood pressure, and decreased heart rate have been reported during the use of PEMF therapy devices.

4. Potential Side Effects

According to current research, most PEMF therapy patients experience few or no side effects. However, minor and more significant reactions have occurred to a few patients.

In some cases, patients may experience mild discomfort during the use of their PEMF device depending on where the therapy is targeted and what the intensity level is. In almost every case, the discomfort is temporary and fades away after use of the PEMF device is discontinued. In most cases, adjusting the PEMF device's output levels or frequency can improve patient experience.

In addition to causing discomfort during use, PEMF therapy may lower blood pressure and reduce heart rate. While this is usually seen as a good thing, it may put certain patients at risk. This is especially the case for older people and those on bed rest. Changes in blood pressure and heart rate usually subside when the therapy is complete. Overall, PEMF is thought to be a relatively low-risk therapy for a variety of ailments and conditions.

5. Controversy

In recent years, there has been controversy over the efficacy of PEMF therapy. Some patients have reported spending thousands of dollars only have their symptoms return after their therapy was concluded. Others experienced no symptom-relief or improvement to their overall health after PEMF therapy.

As mentioned previously, anyone can order a PEMF therapy device online, but there is no guarantee that the device will actually work. Manufacturers could be selling fake devices, un-calibrated devices, or devices that simply don't do what they are supposed to do.

In addition, it's quite possible that some patients simply don't respond as well as others to PEMF therapy. Some doctors don't support PEMF technology and say that it has no health benefits at all.

In the end, it's very important to discuss PEMF therapy with your doctor before using a device. A doctor trained in this technology can write you a prescription for a PEMF device that comes from a reputable manufacturer.

References and Resources

  • Aragona S, Mereghetti G, Lotti J, Vosa A, Lotti T, Canavesi E. Electromagnetic field in control tissue regeneration, pelvic pain, neuro-inflammation and modulation of non-neuronal cells. J Biol Regul Homeost Agents. 2017;31(2 Suppl. 2):219-225. [PubMed]

  • Ganesan K, Gengadharan A, Balachandran C, Manohar B, Puvanakrishnan R. Low frequency pulsed electromagnetic field–a viable alternative therapy for arthritis. Indian J Exp Biol. 2009;47(12):939-948. [PubMed]

  • Markov MS. Expanding use of pulsed electromagnetic field therapies. Electromagn Biol Med. 2007;26(3):257-74.
  • Pawluk, William, MD. "Pulsed Electromagnetic Fields: How They Heal." November 14, 2011. Doctor Oz. <https://www.doctoroz.com/article/pulsed-electromagnetic-fields-how-they-heal>

  • Pawluk, William, MD. "PEMF Adverse Reactions." Accessed July 2018. <https://www.drpawluk.com/education/pemf-information/adverse-reactions/>

  • PEMF Devices. "How Safe Are PEMF Devices and What Are Side Effects of PEMF Therapy?" November 26, 2017. <https://pemf-devices.com/side-effects-pemf-therapy-devices/>

  • PEMF Healing. "PEMF Therapy Side Effects." July 30, 2015. < https://pemfhealing.in/pemf-therapy-side-effects/>

  • Philipson, Ben. "PEMF or PEMFT Technology." Accessed July 2018. <http://www.pemft.com/Pulsed-Electro-Magnetic-Field-Therapy-or-PEMF-or-PEMFT>

  • Pilla, et al., Electromagnetic fields as first messenger in biological signaling: Application to calmodulin-dependent signaling in tissue repair, Biochim. Biophys. Acta (2011), 2011 Oct 8;1810(12):1236-1245.
  • Vavken, Patrick; Arrich, Ferdi; Schuhfried, Othmar; Dorotka, Ronald (2009-05-01). "Effectiveness of pulsed electromagnetic field therapy in the management of osteoarthritis of the knee: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials". Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine. 41 (6): 406–411.

  • Zorzi C, Dall’Oca C, Cadossi R, Setti S. Effects of pulsed electromagnetic fields on patients’ recovery after arthroscopic surgery: prospective, randomized and double-blind study. Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc. 2007;15(7):830-834. [PubMed]

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2018 Christopher Wanamaker

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    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      23 months ago from USA

      I had never heard of this and was interested from start to finish.

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