What Conditions Can Be Treated With PEMF Therapy
Pain management with medications isn't a smooth ride for everyone. This is especially true when the pain in question is severe enough (by conventional determination) to warrant narcotic analgesics. Narcotic analgesics are notorious for their accompanying consequences and, as such, there have been a lot of advancements in identifying alternatives.
One of the alternatives currently being employed in the management of pain is PEMF. However, the uses of this revolutionary technology are not limited to pain management alone. There are many claims about the potential benefits and uses of PEMF therapy, and while the FDA has approved the technology itself in the united states, not all of the claims are true. Keep reading to find out what conditions PEMF is good for, which have been proven and which are still under investigation.
How Does Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy Work?
For starters, this form of therapy is non-invasive and safe (at least, mostly so). As the name implies, it uses magnetic energy and operates in line with the natural magnetic field of the body. It is this combination that factors in the management of pain and healing (in the case of diseases).
Like all forms of treatment, PEMF therapy is not superficial and it has an underlying cellular mechanism to its action. It uses electrical signals and an electromagnetic field (or more). These shouldn't sound so far-fetched. The human body depends on electrical signals for many processes, and many medication-based therapies impact the body's electrical transmission. PEMF therapy devices attempt to realign the "electricity of the body" without drugs.
Normally, our cells have an electrical side to them, as referenced above. This side is involved in many different processes, including the pumping of the heart, muscle contractions, generation of potentials on cell membranes etc. In other words, electricity is key to the normal functioning of the human body. Subsequently, a disruption in the flow of electric signals could be problematic, to say the least.
Bearing this in mind, it isn't too much of a stretch to imagine therapies in this mold having medical significance. For example, the defibrillator is used to send electric pulses to the heart to restore heart function. In the case of PEMF therapy devices, an electromagnetic field is used to correct/align electric signals on a cellular level. It is for this reason that the therapy is sometimes referred to as low field magnetic therapy or stimulation.
Benefits of PEMF Therapy
It is very easy to get carried away with the mechanism behind the therapy or arguments on whether pulsed electromagnetic fields actually work. However, if experiments that have been carried out are to be believed, the therapy works in some regards. As for others, the proof is still being sought to verify its efficacy. Regardless of the specific condition to be managed, though, PEMF therapy has benefits to its use. Some of these benefits are:
- Reduction (and management) of pain intensity
- Enhanced circulation
- Reduction of swelling and inflammation
- Improved muscular performance and movement
- Improved cellular and tissue oxygenation
- Improvement of cell/tissue repair and recovery
- Strengthening of the immune system
- Reduction of fatigue
- Shortening of recovery times from injuries and wounds
Some Conditions Treatable With PEMF Therapy
There are many claims concerning conditions that can be treated or managed with electromagnetic fields. However, not all of these claims have been proven. Even among those that have been proven, the underlying mechanisms of action of the therapy is yet to be mapped out. In fact, this is one of the assumed reasons for the distrust that some sections of the population feel towards PEMF therapy.
Regardless, here are some of the conditions for which the therapy has been proven effective, along with information and assumed mechanisms of action.
Going sleepless isn’t easy on the body from a mental or physical perspective, yet it is a reality many live with. Unfortunately, attempts to treat such sleep disorders with pharmaceuticals usually result in side effects, especially when the root cause of the disorder has been misdiagnosed. This problem, though, is limited to medication use and rarely comes up when PEMF therapy is used to manage a sleeping problem. A study carried out on 100 patients having insomnia, proved the efficacy of PEMF therapy for the disorder and also confirmed no side effects at its conclusion.
Other than insomnia, other sleep disorders can be treated with pulsed electromagnetic fields, depending on the frequency of the device that is used. Some of these sleep disorders are:
1. Sleep apnea
2. An initial inability to sleep
3. Broken sleep at night
4. Chronic pain disorders that might disturb sleep
Fatigue And Exhaustion
Earlier on, we pointed out the importance of electrical impulses and signals to the proper functioning of the body. Among body processes that require such impulses is the beating of the heart and the movement of muscle tissue and limbs. The former, in turn, supports oxygenation of cells which helps to keep muscle fatigue to a low. As such, when used, a PEMF therapy device keeps the heart pumping smoothly and subsequently contributes to recovery. Its effect in dealing with fatigue and exhaustion could also be explained in terms of direct stimulation of tired cells via impulses. An electrical signal transmitted in such a way should theoretically trigger action potentials at neuromuscular junctions. The action potentials would subsequently aid movement and recovery.
Arthritis is a joint problem characterized by swelling and tenderness of the joints. The most common forms of arthritis are rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, though other types such as psoriatic arthritis, septic arthritis etc. exist. In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system attacks the lining of the joints and affects the entirety of the joint. Osteoarthritis, on the other hand, occurs as a result of an erosion of the cartilage at a joint. The general symptoms of arthritis are:
- Decreased range and control of motion in the affected joint
PEMF has been indicated to be effective in treating arthritis and other cartilage/bone-related problems. This was proven in a study carried out on patients suffering from bilateral knee osteoarthritis. The mechanism through which its effect is brought about hasn’t been expounded upon. In addition to its activity in arthritic patients, PEMF has also been indicated in enhancing bone healing, facilitating quicker healing of wounds and encouraging cartilage regeneration.
This is a tricky one because there is no cure for cancer, though, surgery might suffice in some types of cancer. Most cancer patients find themselves having to suffer extensive chemo and radiation therapy even to stand a chance of surviving. PEMF isn’t a cure, nor does it help to manage cancer on its own, but in combination with the more conventional cancer treatments, it can provide benefits to patients. Some of these benefits include:
- Accelerated growth of non-cancerous cells
- Pain reduction and management
- Bone regeneration
Some studies have shown that PEMF therapy reduces cellular stress factors and increases tumor necrosis. However, such studies have been few. Further evidence would be needed to confirm any direct effect of PEMF on cancer, but the treatment is definitely promising enough to be considered as part of combination therapy in cancer patients.
Many studies have corroborated the effectiveness of PEMF devices in improving the immune system. Much of this effect on the immune system has been attributed to an increase in mitochondria and ATP (Adenosine triphosphate) generation due to the therapy. By extension, the immune-boosting capacity of the pulsed fields has led to managing and preventing the onset of flu symptoms. It should be noted, however, that no studies have proven a direct lysis effect on viruses.
PEMF therapy can help prevent and manage coronavirus disease (COVID-19 virus). There’s the immune-boosting effect of PEMF treatments to start with. This could help prepare the body to fight the Covid-19 virus, especially as a strong immune system has been indicated as significantly increasing the chances of recovery. The other argument for using PEMF lies in the fact that it has an anti-inflammatory effect on conditions with underlying inflammatory occurrences. This is of importance to COVID-19 because of the Cytokine storm that is associated with COVID-19 mortality. A cytokine storm is a hyperactive immune response (characterized by a rush of inflammatory cytokines) that leads to inflammation of the lung tissue and possibly death. This effect of COVID-19 has been proven in a study as well.
Many studies have been carried out to prove the efficacy of pulsed electromagnetic field therapy in managing many different conditions (including chronic pain). Many of these have come back with positive conclusions, although the mechanisms behind the conclusions have not been determined. This efficacy is a big reason why PEMF is being adopted by professionals in the sports and wellness industries.