What is PEMF? PEMF stands for Pulsed Electromagnetic Field. The PEMF process involves generating and directing powerful, pulsed energy waves toward damaged or injured areas of the patient’s body. These waves quickly pass through the cells in the damaged region, increasing the spin of the electrons contained within them as a result.
It is this amplified electron spinning which restores the cell’s transmembrane potential (its energy), and brings the cell to homeostasis at the same time. Unlike some other forms of CAM, which only provide temporary relief, this positive cellular effect lasts for as many as four days after the session has ended. Essentially, PEMF therapy is the induction of electricity into the cells to help stimulate or promote healing.
How PEMF works
Perhaps the easiest way to understand PEMF is to think in terms of each cell in your body as if it were a little battery. Like with any battery, sometimes your cells become tired and worn, whether due to age, stress, overuse, or damage, making it more difficult for them to fight off any type of potentially damaging force or illness.
Through PEMF therapy, your batteries (i.e. your cells) essentially become recharged. The energy supplied via PEMF gives cells the energy they need to ward off whatever is threatening them, whether it’s trauma or a disease-based attack. This makes it easier for your patient’s body to restore its health naturally, simply by using the electrical currents and impulses that are already interacting within and throughout their cells. In essence, high-powered PEMF is like a “battery re-charger” for your depleted cells.
What Conditions Can PEMF Help With?
Some treatment devices offer relief limited in nature. Take dental braces, for instance.
These are devices designed for one reason and one reason only: to align and straighten your teeth, thereby improving the health of your mouth. To apply them anywhere else on your body would serve no beneficial purpose whatsoever.
The same is true with foot orthotics. They were created to correct foot and leg defects due to trauma or disease, or any type of issue that occurs as a result of bio mechanical inadequacies. However, if you wear them on your hands, this would do you absolutely no good.
But this is where a PEMF device is different as it is one of the few modalities that offers many different health-related benefits—from head to toe.
Head and Neck
The American Osteopathic Association reports neck pain is the third most common chronic pain, afflicting more than one in four Americans at any given time. 1
Fortunately, PEMF can often help with issues in this area of the body. One study in "Rheumatology International" found that subjects with cervical osteoarthritis had pain levels which “decreased significantly” after PEMF. 2
Study participants also reported improvements in disability and range of motion, especially when compared to a control group who received sham PEMF treatments.
PEMF also helps treat numerous back-related issues, even if they occur post-surgery. In fact, one study in "Current Orthopedic Practice" found that PEMF prompted increased bone formation for 85 percent of the participants, all of whom endured failed posterior lumbar inter body fusion. 3
Seventy-seven percent achieved body-to-body fusion after being treated with PEMF. The researchers involved in this study also pointed out that PEMF “required no hospitalization, reduced morbidity, and avoided the risks associated with surgical intervention”—three more reasons why this remedy is a preferred treatment choice.
When it comes to joints, arthritis is often one of the biggest concerns. PEMF helps not only with arthritic symptoms, but can assist in reversing the cause. One piece of research in the "Indian Journal of Experimental Biology" found that “the use of PEMF for arthritis cure has conclusively shown that PEMF not only alleviates the pain in the arthritis condition but it also affords chondro-protection, exerts anti-inflammatory action, and helps in [healthy] bone remodeling.” 4
Chronic Body Conditions
PEMF is even helpful when it comes to chronic conditions that affect your entire body.
For instance, one study published in "Pain Research and Management" found that, after seven days of twice-daily PEMF treatments, participants who struggled with fibromyalgia responded positively to the pulsed electromagnetic therapy, reporting less pain after treatment sessions. 5
Another study, this one in Chinese Medical Journal, concluded that “low frequency PEMFs relieves the pain of primary osteoporosis quickly and efficiently, enhances bone formation and increases BMD [bone mineral density] of secondary osteoporosis.” 6
PEMF has also shown positive effects with Alzheimer’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s, cancer, heart disease, depression, diabetes, endometriosis, epilepsy, headaches, glaucoma, hepatitis, kidney problems, lung disease, lupus, multiple sclerosis, pancreatitis, Parkinson’s, sexual disorders, sleep disorders, spinal cord injury, stroke, Tourette’s, ulcers, urinary problems, and more.
1. Chronic Neck Pain . (2016). Osteopathic.org. Retrieved October 2016, link currently unavailable
3. Treatment of Failed Posterior Lumbar InterbodyFusion (PLIF)...: Clinical Orthopaedics and RelatedResearch. (2016). LWW. Retrieved October 2016, journals.lww.com/corr/Abstract/1985/03000/Treatment_of_Failed_Posterior_Lumbar_Interbody.16.aspx
4. Ganesan, K. Low frequency pulsed electromagnetic field, a viable alternative therapy for arthritis. Indian Journal of Experimental Biology. Vol. 47, December 2009, pg. 939-948
5. Alex W Thomas, S. (2007). A randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial using a low-frequency magnetic field in the treatment of musculoskeletal chronic pain. Pain Research &Management : The Journal Of The Canadian Pain Society, 12(4), 249. Retrieved from
6. Huang, Li-qun et al. Clinical update of pulsed electromagnetic fields on osteoporosis. Chinese Medical Journal. 2008; 121(20):2095-2009.
Is PEMF safe?
When it comes to choosing a treatment option, one of the first questions most patients ask is: “Is it safe?”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Patient safety is a serious global public health issue.”1
They back this statement by reporting that even hospitalized patients are at risk, with one out of every ten harmed while in what is supposed to be one of the safest medical environments. Safety is also a major concern and consideration for patients who are interested in PEMF therapy.
A Safe Option
For instance, in the May-June 2008 issue of The Spine Journal, a clinical study was published involving 323 patients with a compressed cervical nerve root and symptomatic radiculopathy, leading into anterior cervical discectomy and fusion. 2
Post-surgery, approximately half of the participants engaged in PEMF therapy while the other half served as a control. After evaluating the patients’ statuses at one, two, three, six, and twelve month intervals, the researchers concluded that, “There were no differences in the incidence of adverse events in the two groups, indicating that the use of PEMF stimulation is safe in this clinical setting.” It’s important to note that, although PEMF was deemed safe in this study, there was still one major difference between the group who participated in this therapy and the group that did not.
The difference was seen in the positive effects that PEMF offered.
Notably, the researchers found that the PEMF group had an 83.6 percent fusion rate at six months’ post-op compared to the control group’s 68.6 percent. Additionally, fusion rates for the PEMF group were still higher at the 12-month point, with a 92.8 percent success rate for their group versus only 86.7 percent for the control.
Another study, in "Bio-electromagnetics", looked at 11 different trials involving PEMF to determine its level of therapeutic effect as well as whether or not it was safe. Some of these studies involved PEMF’s effects on osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, or pain perception,while the rest focused on how PEMF impacted skin ulcers, fatigue related to multiple sclerosis, heart rate variability, and overall well-being. 3
While the researchers ultimately recommended that more research be conducted on this particular treatment method to be able to clearly say that it is effective for a variety of different health conditions, they also noted that “Acute adverse effects have not been reported.” This was after reviewing 11 PEMF studies in total, each of which had anywhere from 12 to 71 participants.
The list could go on and on as there are several more studies that have focused on the same thing, too many to mention to be honest. However, there is one common theme among all of them and that is that PEMF is a safe treatment option. That makes this one concern that can be crossed off your patient’s list.
There are very few contraindications to PEMF. They include any persons who have a pacemaker, or an electrical implant that operates off of a battery. It is also recommended to refrain from PEMF during pregnancy.