25 Feb Understanding Pulsed Electromagnetic Frequency (PEMF) Therapy
As the general public continues to get on board with a more ancestral health mentality around the way our bodies were designed to thrive, I’d like to bring attention to another “element” that is just as important as food, water, oxygen, and sunlight. This key element is not only important, but is essential for survival and, like the other essentials for survival, has become compromised by our modern day way of life. I’m referring to the Earth’s life-giving Geomagnetic and Schumann frequencies and their corresponding Pulsed Electromagnetic Fields (PEMFs).
Much like the changes over the past several decades that have greatly impacted our food, water, and air quality- the level at which we are exposed to the Earth’s own healing frequencies has reduced. Consider how often we would be in contact with the ground (and the sun for that matter) when working in the fields or hunting and gathering. That was the norm for most of our existence. We now call it grounding.
Most everyone has heard that we are all electrical beings, but we never really consider the fact that “energy” is what drives all biologic activity. From the foundational level of our individual atoms to the complex physiology of organ-system and whole-body functioning, we require an adequate level of voltage not only for survival, but also for avoiding disease. The fact is, life is energy and all energy is electromagnetic.
Brilliant scientists, including Nikola Tesla, have made profound discoveries concerning the nature of energy and life. Their research has revealed that each of the 75 trillion cells in our bodies work as independent electrical circuits, accumulating and holding an electrical charge.
What is PEMF therapy?
The Institute for Functional Medicine has an Advanced Practice Module called “Energy” which focuses on alternative evidence-based clinical solutions for managing pain, fatigue, headaches, depression, and cognitive dysfunction. A large focus investigates the science of mitochondrial function and dysfunction as it relates to health and disease. PEMF therapy represents a non-invasive therapy shown to have anti-inflammatory and other biological effects that contribute not just to pain relief and tissue healing but overall wellness.
When it comes to how this technology is applied from a mat or therapy device, PEMFs are comfortable low-frequency, pulsating magnetic fields with wavelengths that can completely penetrate the body. They are naturally occurring frequencies and wavelengths are supportive to the body’s natural functions. PEMF’s should not be confused with dirty electricity, EMFs or “electrosmog” which are put off by cell towers, cell phones, power lines, appliances, and other devices. These wavelengths are constant with very high frequency and short-wavelength surges, which are damaging to cellular health.
PEMF therapy is also not the same as the direct electrical stimulation produced by devices like TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation), E-STIM or STEM units, which are specifically designed to block pain signals to the brain. With PEMF therapy no electricity touches the body. Rather, magnetic fields pass freely through all the cells of the body, charging them like depleted batteries to optimize metabolic function and turn on natural repair processes.
For a great read regarding the body as an electrical being, I highly recommend checking out the book Healing is Voltage, by author Jerry Tennant, MD, MD(H), Psc.,D. In his book he states that every cell in the body is designed to run at -20 to -25 millivolts. To heal, we must make new cells. To make new cells requires -50 millivolts. Chronic disease occurs when voltage drops below -20 and you cannot achieve -50 millivolts to efficiently make new cells. Therefore, chronic disease can be defined by having low voltage.
The benefits of PEMF therapy have been documented in several peer-reviewed clinical studies for a wide range of medical conditions. Randomized double-blind, placebo controlled clinical trials using PEMF therapy have shown beneficial effects for chronic low back pain, cervical osteoarthritis, osteoarthritis of the knee, rotator cuff tendinitis, lateral epicondylitis, arthroscopic knee surgery, interbody lumbar fusions, fibromyalgia, depression, and multiple sclerosis. (2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11)
Although historically, much of this therapy has been known for it’s use to promote healing of bone and ununited fractures, scientists at the University of Kentucky found that soft tissue responds favorably to specific electromagnetic frequencies. (12) The following effects were observed:
- Enhancement of capillary formation
- Reduced swelling
- Diminished pain
- Faster functional recovery
- Reduction in depth, area, and pain in skin wounds
- Reduced muscle loss after ligament surgery
- Increased tensile strength of ligaments
- Acceleration of nerve regeneration and functional recovery.
Research has also given hope that PEMF therapy may one day be used as a common treatment for cancer. Studies have shown PEMF therapy induces apoptosis of cancer cells, inhibits the growth of malignant tumors, modulates the immune system via cytokines as an anti-tumor effect, and may also act synergistically with chemotherapy to combat tumor growth. (13,14,15,16)
You may have heard recent podcasts put out by biohackers and social medial influencers like Dr. Joseph Mercola, Dave Asprey and Ben Greenfield regarding PEMF therapy. Back in 2011, Dr. Mehmet Oz even aired a special show on the pain-relieving effects of this ground-breaking therapy and called it the biggest breakthrough in pain management he had ever seen. Today, professional athletes, celebrities, entrepreneurial leaders and even the world’s top racehorses are utilizing PEMF therapy for sports performance, recovery, and overall wellness.
Like many “new” therapies here in the US, I’m anticipating that it will likely take YEARS before PEMF therapy becomes accepted into mainstream medicine and (potentially be covered by insurance). There will most likely be more very targeted and controlled FDA approved devices for specific conditions before hospitals and medical clinics begin to integrate this. Until then, many are turning to this safer therapy for health concerns, such as managing pain, where traditional medicine has not worked. In Europe, PEMF is considered a vascular therapy and is a billable treatment covered by insurance.
After combing through an array of studies around the potential benefits of PEMF therapy, I was (needless to say) intrigued by the vast potential that this therapy could hold for my patients here in my clinic in Bend OR, as well as my own health. However, what ultimately sold me on the device was seeing the actual demonstration of the effects of a simple drop of blood viewed through a dark field microscope before and after just one PEMF session.
When first looking at blood under a microscope, you will notice that many of the red blood cells are stacked like rolls of coins. This makes blood profusion into microcirculation less than optimal. After just one PEMF session the cells begin to repel one another which would make sense to allow for 1) better circulation into the capillary beds (75% of our vascular system) and 2) significant increases of surface area per cell which improves oxygen binding capacity and enables better elimination of carbon dioxide.
A very recent study done at Old Dominion University looked at this very concept- Using a Pulse Centers PEMF device, the results showed experimental evidence that PEMFs not only improve blood flow and enhance oxygen consumption, but also increased mitochondrial density in less than three weeks! (17) In my opinion, Pulse Centers offers the “Bentley” of PEMF systems and represent the most versatile and powerful units on the market with a broad range of applicators, multiple frequencies and both Low or High levels of intensity.
As I use this therapy as an adjunct to many other interventions offered in my clinic, the conditions I’ve seen the most profound benefits have been with acute moderate to severe strains and sprains, fibromyalgia, idiopathic neuropathies, knee arthritis, shoulder pain, rib fractures, sleep disorders, and even Chronic Lyme disease. I’ve also recently began utilizing PEMF therapy for conditions like osteoporosis, cognitive decline, and some other more chronic Functional Medicine-type cases.
Steps to Improve Your Voltage
- Proper nutrient-rich diet
- Adequate Hydration with filtered water
- More time in contact with Mother Earth (walk barefoot on the earth whenever possible)
- Reduce exposure to dirty electricity and harmful EMFs.
- Purchase your own PEMF device (although somewhat spendy at home devices are available).
- Find a local Functional Medicine practitioner, Chiropractor, Naturopath, Physical Therapist or other professional in your area who utilizes this technology. I recommend locating a provider near you by searching pulsecenters.com for the most powerful and versatile PEMF therapy devices on the market.
PEMF therapy has several scientifically documented beneficial effects on multiple biological tissues, ranging from bone to brain via several pathways. Before any chemical or physiologic response is obtained in a biological system, there is always an exchange of energy. The use of PEMF devices, with specific frequencies and intensities, prompts this therapeutic exchange of energy in a safe and cost-effective manner. It’s clear that certain frequencies and intensities are capable of positively effecting the cells of the body such as chondrocytes, osteoblasts, fibrocytes and endothelial cells which help to optimize the body’s potential to heal itself.
While I’m certainly not promising that this type of therapy will “heal” anything and everything, my clinical approach with treating most acute and chronic conditions is to simply help each patient get to a state where the body can heal itself. I still educate on diet and nutrition, stress reduction, reducing toxic burdens, proper biomechanics and movement patterns, but now I have one more tool in my belt to help maximize cellular charge- Pulsed Electromagnetic Field therapy.
- Lee PB, Kim YC, Lim YJ, et al. Efficacy of pulsed electromagnetic therapy for chronic lower back pain: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. J Int Med Res. March-April 2006;34(2):160-7.
- Sutbeyaz ST, Sezer N, Koseoglu BF. The effect of pulsed electromagnetic fields in the treatment of cervical osteoarthritis: a randomized, double-blind, sham-controlled trial. Rheumatol Int. February 2006;26(4): 320-4.
- Binder A, Parr G, Hazleman B, Fitton-Jackson S. Pulsed electromagnetic field therapy of persistent rotator cuff tendinitis. A double-blind controlled assessment. Lancet. March 1984;1(8379):695-8.
- Nicolakis P, Kollmitzer J, Crevenna R, Bittner C, Erdogmus CB, Nicolakis J. Pulsed magnetic field therapy for osteoarthritis of the knee – a double-blind, sham-controlled trial. Wien Klin Wochenschr. August 2002; 114(15-16):678-84.
- Uzunca K, Birtane M, Tastekin N. Effectiveness of pulsed electromagnetic field therapy in lateral epicondylitis. Clin Rheumatol. January 2007;26(1):69-74.
- Benazzo F, Zanon G, Pederzini L, et al. Effects of biophysical stimulation in patients undergoing arthroscopic reconstruction of anterior cruciate ligament: prospective, randomized and double blind study. Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc. June 2008;16(6):595-601.
- Mooney V. A randomized double-blind prospective study of the efficacy of pulsed electromagnetic fields for interbody lumbar fusions. Spine. July 1990;15(7):708-12.
- Thomas AW, Graham K, Prato FS, et al. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial using low-frequency magnetic fields in the treatment of musculoskeletal chronic pain. Pain Res Manag. Winter 2007;12(4):249-58.
- Blumberger DM, Mulsant BH, Fitzgerald PB, et al. A randomized double-blind sham-controlled comparison of unilateral and bilateral repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation for treatment-resistant major depression. World J Biol Psychiatry. July 2011.
- Lappin MS, Lawrie FW, Richards TL, Kramer ED. Effects of pulsed electromagnetic therapy on multiple sclerosis fatigue and quality of life: a double-blind, placebo controlled trial. Altern Ther Health Med. July-August 2003;9(4):38-48.
- Siskin, B.F., Walker, J., 1995. Therapeutic aspects of electromagnetic fields for soft-tissue healing. In: Blank, M. (Ed.), Electromagnetic Fields: Biological Interactions and Mechanisms. Advances in Chemistry Series 250. American Chemical Society, Washington, DC, pp. 277–285.
- Zeng F, Zheng C, Zhang X, et al. Experimental studies on ultralow frequency pulsed gradient magnetic field inducing apoptosis of cancer cell and inhibiting growth of cancer cell. Sci China C Life Sci. February 2002 45(1):33-9.
- Yamaguchi S, Ogiue-Ikeda M, Sekino M, Ueno S. Effects of pulsed magnetic stimulation on tumor development and immune function in mice. Bioelectromagnetics. January 2006;27(1):64-72.
- Rihova B, Etrych T, Sirova M, Tomala J, Ulbrich K, Kovar M. Synergistic effect of EMF-BEMER-type pulsed weak electromagnetic field and HPMA-bound doxorubicin on mouse EL4 T-cell lymphoma. J Drug Target. December 2011;19(10):890-9.
- Radeva M, Berg H. Differences in lethality between cancer cells and human lymphocytes caused by LF-electromagnetic fields. Bioelectromagnetics. October 2004;25(7):503-7.
- Kolterman T, Lassiter BP, Bani Hani M, Lai N, Beebe, SJ. PEMF- Its Correlation to Enhanced Energy, Endurance, and Performance, Frank Reidy Research Center for Bioelectrics, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA, Department of Computer and Electrical Engineering Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA