PEMF: Breaking down the science, benefits, and facts
PEMF (Pulsed Electro-Magnetic Field) technology has been around for about 6 decades, but most recently is emerging as one of the most important and useful adjunctive therapies.
At the 2019 ACIM conference, 420 participants were surveyed on their use of PEMF, both personally and in their clinical practice. Many had not yet tried PEMF due to the prohibitive cost, but among those who had tried PEMF, more than 2/3 stated that when they applied PEMF along with other modalities, the outcome was better or much better than when the other modality was used alone. These other modalities covered the full array from exercise and nutrition, to acupuncture, light therapy, chiropractic, energy therapies, ozone therapy, and virtually all other possibilities.
Participants at the ACIM conference mainly include people in Integrative and Functional Medicine. But we also work with more mainstream caregivers, including physicians, nurses, and surgeons, all of whom use PEMF adjunctively.
Reports from these individuals usually focus on their observation of accelerated healing rates by a factor of 2x to 3x, with improved quality of tissue healing. As well as reduction and often even the elimination of refractory and chronic pain, not to mention vastly improved quality of life. When used adjunctively, PEMF can be transformational, helping people to shake off disabling pain and drug dependence. Many of these reports are anecdotal in nature, but some are formal and peer-reviewed, such as a recent nursing doctoral dissertation from Florida Atlantic University.
The general observation from virtually every clinical user is that PEMF, when used adjunctively, often has very beneficial synergistic effects that one clinician noted as follows:
“It [PEMF] just makes things work the way I know they should work. My nutritional and manual interventions are doing what I know they are supposed to do when I combine them with PEMF.”
As an example, while most of the observations of the synergistic effects of PEMF with other modalities remain anecdotal, the synergistic effects when PEMF is applied adjunctively with ozone therapy treatments have been shown in very recent case reports to:
● Improve endometrial lining thickness
● Reduce tumor growth
● Improve pain management
Other integrative modalities and mainstream interventions have benefitted from the adjunctive use of PEMF along with more common approaches, including
● Post-stroke recovery
● Ulcer healing repair
● Non-union fracture repair,
● Spinal fusions
● Manual and laser acupuncture
● Cancer and tumor management
● Pain management
● Medication and behavioral work
● Pulsed ultrasound
● Hormone replacement
● Nutritional and behavioral coaching
● LLLT (low-level laser therapy)
While many reports of the adjunctive effects of PEMF are published in peer-reviewed journals and can simply be found by searching the terms of interest, many more are reported anecdotally.
PEMF is such a powerful adjunctive tool, it is even a great adjunct for itself! Many clinicians noted that the benefits of their large and powerful clinical PEMF systems were enhanced by the addition of the daily use of portable, personal PEMF between clinical treatments.
Fun Facts about PEMF
➢ Uses: There are about 1000 scientific papers on PEMF, covering 45 different broad classes of diseases shown to be responsive to PEMF but with no reliable reports of any adverse effects of PEMF
➢ Billions: There are more than one quadrillion ways to apply PEMF (and yes, “quadrillion” is a real number). Before deciding whether PEMF works or not, we need to define exactly which type of PEMF.
➢ Life: PEMF has beneficial effects across the spectrum of higher organisms on earth. The benefits of properly applied PEMF have been shown in many types of animals and even seeds and plants.
➢ Aging: PEMF has been observed to be very helpful for the management of hundreds of diseases of aging, which often are completely without any other effective interventions.
➢ Chronic: The older a person is, or the more chronic the condition is, the better PEMF tends to work.
➢ Degeneration: Sometimes “untreatable” degenerative conditions can be slowed, stopped, or even reversed by the use of PEMF.
➢ When: Based on actual usage surveys, PEMF should be an intervention of first resort, not one of last resort. Most people try between 2 and 5 mainstream treatments, some of which are irreversible such as back surgery, followed by a dozen or more failed alternative or integrative strategies before finding relief with PEMF. Had they tried PEMF first, instead of attempting PEMF only as a last resort, they may have saved themselves many years of unnecessary emotional, physical and financial suffering.
➢ Pain: PEMF is not a “pain blocker”. Chronic pain is the natural response to real derangements in the body, and ignoring them or blocking them has proven to be both impossible and harmful over the long run. PEMF appears to act at a fundamental level, correcting the source of the pain.
➢ Duration: The effects of PEMF can last many hours, days, weeks, or longer, unlike any pain “blocker”. Sometimes, the relief from PEMF can be permanent.
➢ Habituation: Unlike pain medications, the required dose of PEMF does not increase over time. In fact, it tends to decrease slowly over time to achieve the same level of relief.
➢ Dosage: The effectiveness of PEMF has recently been shown to follow an “inverse hormesis” dose-response curve. That means that when the dosage is too low or too high, PEMF can be less effective. Excess intensity is not likely to be beneficial.
➢ Regeneration: Combined with more commonly used interventions, PEMF can result in healing and tissue regeneration in some cases thought to be impossible
➢ Mechanisms: The molecular mechanisms of PEMF remain unknown. Despite many theories and marketing claims, it remains a mystery, similar to the mystery of anesthesia which is widely used in clinical practice because it is known to be effective and generally safe, but without knowing how it actually works.
➢ Frequencies: The important frequencies of PEMF are embedded in the precise shape of the pulse waveform itself, not in the pulse rate described by “Hz”, as claimed by many PEMF marketers
➢ Comparison: PEMF is not standardized, and most manufacturers of PEMF systems report inaccurate numbers or incomplete specifications, so technical comparisons between PEMF systems are almost impossible.
➢ TENS: PEMF is not the same thing as TENS, Rife, or Bioresonance. PEMF is about 1,000 to 10,000 times more electrically efficient than TENS, and has an operating principle entirely different from Rife and Bioresonance.
➢ EMI: Does PEMF generate harmful electro-magnetic interference? No. Low frequency, efficient, modern PEMF will not generate any detectable amount of harmful EMI.
➢ Precision: The persistent myth is that PEMF requires precise frequencies or Gauss levels to be effective. There is no evidence for this whatsoever. But all scientific evidence from the past six decades indicates the contrary: PEMF seems to have benefits over a very wide range of frequencies and magnetic field strengths. The primary improvements in PEMF in recent decades relate primarily to efficiency, durability, reliability, cost, simplicity, and portability. All modern PEMF devices should be viewed as “experimental”.
➢ Pets: Companion animals as well as work animals can benefit greatly from PEMF
➢ Acceptance: The FDA has cleared more than one PEMF device for more than one medical indication. Therefore, the FDA says PEMF works for something. But the vast majority of uses for PEMF are “off-label”, not yet approved.
➢ Innovation: For approval by the FDA, PEMF products have generally been designed to take advantage of the “510(k) exemption”, which means that the core technology is “substantially equivalent” to a product that was for sale before May 1976. Getting a new and improved PEMF technology would be much more expensive and risky. Therefore, FDA-listed commercial PEMF technology is based on 45-year old (or older) technology. Think “Disco-ball”. Modern PEMF technology can be as much as 500 times more efficient than the older technology, and tends to be much more effective, but it cannot be approved by the FDA-510(k) process.
➢ Why: Why do people delay using PEMF until it is finally employed as a last resort? Our survey of integrative practitioners suggested (1) a lack of basic knowledge about PEMF, (2) lack of availability, (3) high cost of entry for clinical PEMF systems, (4) a general fear of electromagnetism, (5) excessive hype and fraudulent claims of PEMF marketers, and (6) the cult-like atmosphere of some PEMF marketing organizations.
I’m not here to say either way. But I know it’s worked for me, and thousands of others. It’s also been studied and proven effective at so many things, particularly in the reduction and reversal or elimination of chronic pain.
The preceding is entirely the opinion of Robert Dennis, PhD, and does not constitute medical advice or verified scientific fact.
This is a guest post by Bob Dennis
Owner of Micro-Pulse LLC and inventor of ICES®-PEMF
Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering, UNC-NCSU
We’re excited about what he’s doing to help solve chronic pain, and how effective PEMF is when it’s used in conjunction with ozone therapy.