A Magic Bullet For Pain?

The Science Of PEMFs

Pulsed Electromagnetic Frequencies (PEMFs) are safe, noninvasive,  non-toxic, and super convenient. Scientific research has found PEMF therapy to be the equivalent of a standard adult does of morphine (10 mg) in terms of its’ pain killing effect in the body. [1] Among other things, PEMFs have been shown to:

  • Eliminate Pain Of All Types
  • Enhance Functionality
  • Improve Cognitive Function
  • Speed Up Reaction Times
  • Increase Bone Density
  • Heal, Repair & Regrow Damaged Tissue (even nerves & cartilage)

Back Pain

Back is probably the single most widespread health problem in the entire world. Upwards of 85% of people will sufferer from it over the course of their lifetime.[2] One of the really nasty things about back pain is that once you’ve had it, the odds that you’re going to have it again are extremely high.  

A very large-scale study out of Europe found that just 6% of back pain sufferers experience a single, non-recurrent episode. [3]  According to the American Journal of the Medical Sciences, even when back pain subsides it comes back a staggering 85% of the time. [4] 

Back pain is an area where PEMF therapy really shines and the evidence for its use is quite strong. The research indicates that about 95% of back pain sufferers are able to find relief using PEMFs – Impressively, this statistic includes individuals in which conventional forms of treatment and even surgery have failed. According to PEMF expert, Dr. William Pawluk, the most important factors to get results with PEMFs are: sufficient intensity and consistent application of PEMFs over time.  

Studies on PEMFs have shown significant benefits for a wide variety of conditions including:

  • Herniated Discs
  • Sciatica
  • Radiculopathy
  • Spondylosis
  • Spinal Stenosis
  • Arthritis

Studies on pain reduction with L5/S1 radiculopathy and whiplash syndrome have demonstrated very impressive results in pain reduction. The PEMF group in these studies received treatment 2 times per day for 2 weeks. Not only did they get 75% greater pain relief, but the relief came 30% faster! [5]

Patients with lumbar disc prolapse – a situation where many people end up having surgery – patients received 3 weeks of PEMF treatment and reported significantly less pain, they were able to work more, spend time with friends/family and were better able to perform activities of daily living. When they were examined physically, they demonstrated far better results with objective electrical sensory testing – indicating that PEMFs are effective for reducing physical nerve root compression and helping to restore normal nerve function. [6]   

A wide variety of PEMF intensities have been shown to be effective for people with osteoarthritis of the lumbar spine. One study showed that with a PEMF intensity of 350-400 gauss people got relief 90-95% of the time. [7]

The great news about using PEMFs for back pain is that you don’t need to use a super powerful machine to get great results. Even a relatively low intensity of 5-15 gauss  has been shown to produce dramatic reductions in pain. [8] Some of these people remained pain free for 6 months following their treatment! 

Headaches & Migraine

Migraine is the third most common illness in the world. It affects about 15% of the population –  more than 1 billion people worldwide. [10] Most people don’t know that migraine is classified as a neurological disease. The defining characteristic of migraine is incapacitating neurological symptoms combined with recurrent, severe debilitating headaches. The intense bouts of pain can cause nausea and vomiting and are often accompanied by extreme sensitivity to light, sound and smell.

Migraines are a truly miserable experience and can last anywhere from a few hours to several days. When these attacks occur, people usually close themselves off in a dark quiet room until they subside.  For reasons unknown, women are much more likely to suffer with migraines than men. They are difficult to treat because they are not well understood and are thought to be the result of both environmental and genetic factors.  

PEMFs have repeatedly demonstrated significant benefits for people suffering with migraine. A study out of Germany found that PEMF treatment of 96 gauss at 12Hz applied to the head for 30 minutes could alleviate migraine. [11]

In another study, people with migraine received 10-15 minutes of PEMF therapy to the head once a day for 30 days. The treatment resulted in a 66% improvement in symptoms with decreases in both the level of pain and the frequency of episodes. The PEMF settings used in this study were 30-40 gauss and frequency was 2-5 Hz. [12]

The PEMF research on headaches is even more impressive. They consistently show that PEMF therapy results in decreased frequency and intensity of both headaches and decreased reliance on drugs! [13,14] One study took 90 people with headaches who were unresponsive to treatment with medication and acupuncture and put them on a course of PEMF treatment. They received just 20 minutes of treatment each day for 15 days. Almost 90% of people with tension type headaches reported good-excellent results. While nearly 65% of migraine sufferers reported good-excellent results. There were significant reductions in the use of pain medications across the board. [15]

Osteoarthritis (Degenerative Joint Disease)

Studies have shown that PEMFs have the ability to slow, stop and even reverse the degenerative process. Yes, you read that right! According to PEMF expert Dr. William Pawluk “…regeneration of  arthritis is indeed possible with regular long-term PEMF use.”

You don’t have to wait for things to get really bad to begin using PEMFs. The use of PEMFs, even with mild arthritis will:

  • Reduce Pain 
  • Eliminate Stiffness  
  • Improve Mobility & Functionality
  • Slow and/or Stop the Degeneration
  • Decrease Reliance on Medication

Based on the research so far, the “magic numbers” for PEMFs and joint health are an intensity of 15-30 gauss at a frequency of 75 Hz. These settings have demonstrated clear and consistent results in the form of significant reductions in pain and decreased reliance on NSAIDs and other pain killing drugs. It’s important to reiterate that the benefits of PEMFs extend far beyond just killing pain. They have shown the ability to increased cellular growth of connective tissue and increase the production of:

  • Type II Collagen  – The most important building block of cartilage, bone and other connective tissue in your whole body.
  • Glucosaminoglycans (GAGS) – Play a crucial role in wound healing, regulation of cell growth, promotion of cell adhesion, and the prevention of blood clotting. 
  • Proteoglycans – Provide hydration to joint & connective tissue enabling it to with stand compressive forces
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor (IGF-1) & Interlukin -1 (IL-1b) – Key players in both the inflammatory process and for healing, growth and repair of tissues throughout the body.

Nerve Damage

One of the most challenging conditions to treat as a clinician, are those where nerve tissue has been damaged. Nerves are quite delicate and their capacity for repairing themselves is quite limited by the time a person reaches adulthood. That’s why one of the most exciting applications for PEMFs is for the regeneration of nerve tissue and the restoration of normal function. Even under the best of circumstances, when a nerve regenerates, the process is extremely slow – the rate is about 1mm per day. [16] There are times when a nerve has been damaged to the point where it cannot regenerate

A 2011 study done by NASA showed that PEMFs could increase the production of neural stem cells by 400%! The therapy also activated 160 genes responsible for growth and regeneration. [17] 

For spinal nerves that have been damaged as a result of injury, compression, or degeneration PEMFs are giving us new treatment options for people we would not have been able to help in the past. 

PEMFs have demonstrated the ability to regenerate damaged nerve tissue and restore normal sensation and functionality.  In people with diabetic neuropathy, using PEMFs every day for a little as 12 minutes led to significant reductions in pain, improvements in sensation and increased muscle strength. [18] 

One animal actually showed that PEMFs increased the rate that surgically damaged nerves healed and increased the speed at which function twas restored to the affected limb. [19]  

The most common complication of Shingles is something called post-herpetic neuralgia. This condition is absolutely debilitating and causes severe burning pain in the nerves and skin. What’s worse, as the name implies, post-herpetic can stick around for months after the telltale rash and blisters are gone. Most people resort to heavy-duty pain medication to cope but research has demonstrated that PEMF therapy is effective in 80% of these people. [20]

Concussion / Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) and concussion are two topics that have received a ton of attention over the past 5-10 years. A greater understanding of these types of injuries and their consequences means that signs and symptoms that were once blown off, are now taken very seriously. The main concern about TBI is that damage to the brain does not repair itself and that injury to this precious tissue can wreak havoc on systems throughout the body (depending on which area of the brain is affected).  

Patients with diagnosed TBI reported over a 50% reduction in headache intensity and 79% reduction in the frequency of headaches following PEMF treatment. [11]

Application to the head has been repeatedly shown to improve nervous system function on multiple levels.  PEMFs have been shown to: 

  • Increase circulation to the brain [21] 
  • Enhance neurological signaling [22]
  • Speed up reaction times [23]
  • Normalize levels of brain neurotransmitters (seratonin, dopamine and noradrenoline) [24]
  • Create a huge increase in neural stem cells and gene growth factors. [17] 

PEMfs have shown the ability to reduce inflammatory markers in cerebrospinal fluid by up to 10-fold within just hours of very serious traumatic injury. [25]

Dr. Pawluk himself conducted a pilot study to test the effect of PEMFs on people with concussion/TBI. He found that 2 hours of PEMF therapy applied directly to the head at 10 Hz produced measurable improvements in cognitive function. Nearly every subject in the study reported better memory/recall, improved ability to focus and clear-headedness. [26]

Because there’s significant carry-over between traumatic brain injury, concussion, chronic pain and depression, it should also be noted that PEMFs have been shown to produce rapid mood elevation in people with a variety of depressive disorders. [27]

There are individuals who have voiced concern that PEMFs applied directly to the head could promote brain cancer or seizures. Multiple studies where PEMFs were applied to the head, even at very high intensities have failed to find problems. [28,29] In fact, a study was done on people experiencing relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis combined with TBI and not a single person showed any evidence of relapse for 8 months following treatment. The researchers in this study concluded that PEMF stimulation to the brain is easy to perform, painless and safe. [30]  

Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a condition that is defined by by widespread musculoskeletal pain throughout the body. It’s often accompanied by sleep disturbance, depression and chronic fatigue. With fibromyalgia, pain signals in the body are amplified in the brain via a process known as “sensitization”. 

Fibromyalgia often co-exists with other conditions, such as:

  • TMJ
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Migraine and other headaches
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Postural tachycardia syndrome
  • Interstitial cystitis or painful bladder syndrome

In 2009, a study was published in which 56 women, aged 18-60 who were suffering with fibromyalgia received either PEMF or sham. The treatment group  received just 30 minutes of PEMF therapy twice a day for 3 weeks.  At the end of the 3 weeks the treatment group reported not only significantly less pain, but way higher levels of functionality, less anxiety, less depression, more energy, better sleep and a greater ability to perform activities of daily living. Impressively, these results were maintained at the the 12 week follow up! [31] 

A 2013 study demonstrated nearly a 40% reduction in perceived pain and a 28% increase in pain threshold with just 8 twenty-minute sessions of PEMF therapy. They used 8Hz of extremely low intensity PEMFs (0.00043 gauss) applied directly to the head. No adverse side effects were reported. [32] This built on the success from another study that showed significant reductions pain for people with fibromyalgia pain that used half hour treatments and very low intensity (4 gauss) PEMFs. [33] With impressive reductions in pain, short treatment times and no side effects reported, anyone with fibromyalgia would be well-served by taking a long hard look PEMF therapy.  

Osteoporosis (& Osteopenia)

Bone is metabolically active tissue. It can grow stronger and more dense and it can also weaken, shrink and become brittle. Just like your muscles, another highly active body tissue, the direction it goes depends on the input you give it. 

When people are less active and/or nutritionally deficient these tissues begin to atrophy. Often times, people reach for medication when they get the news that their bones have lost density. There’s a big misconception about what these drugs do. “The value of medications in the treatment of osteoproisis in two years is commonly less than a 1-2% improvement in bone density, if at all…” [34]

Multiple studies have shown that PEMFS enhance the natural process of bone formation in the body and increase the deposition of calcium into bone. [35,36]

PEMFs slow the process of bone resorption (breakdown) while simultaneously increasing the formation of “new bone” to both the inner and outer parts of the bone. What’s more, an application of as little as 1 hour per day produces measurable results. [37]

One 1999 study tested the effects of PEMFs on the degenerated knees of people with spinal cord injury. 

The knees the given PEMFs showed a 5.1% increase in in bone mineral density (BMD) in just 3 months while the untreated knees lost 6.6% of their bone density in that same time – a difference of over 11.5%! [38]        

In another study they looked at children undergoing limb-lengthening surgery. This a prolonged and painful procedure sometimes requires more than  year to complete. These kids often lose a significant amount of bone density over the course of the treatment because they find it too painful to move around & walk. These kids can lose as much as 33% of their bone density in just the first 2 months and over 50% in 12 months. By adding PEMFs to their treatments, the bone loss reduced to just 13% over the course of an entire year! [39]   

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