While scrolling through your favorite TV channels, have you ever seen the advertisement of those fancy "electric mats" that claim to heal every bit of your body? I bet you are not the only one who has wondered, "how on earth the electricity cure your pain and reduce inflammation?" Well, there is a science behind these magic mats. They are based on a phenomenon called pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) therapy. PEMF therapy is a non-invasive procedure to promote energization and repair of our body cells. Our body cells do contain electricity. Imagine them as tiny batteries that maintain a specific charge by claiming the flow of ions or electrolytes in and out. Any disruption in this natural electric balance of the cells leads to dysfunction and disease.
How Does PEMF Work?
Alternatively known as low field magnetic stimulation, PEMF utilizes specialized magnetic devices to deploy small amounts of low-frequency energy pulses (1-100 Hz) towards a specific part of the body. These pulses pass through the skin and penetrate deep into the muscles, bones, tendons, and nerves. These pulses then energize the underlying cells by charging them through the opening of specific ion channels, thus promoting the body's natural healing mechanism and overall well-being. The increase in cellular energy by PEMF therapy helps heal damaged or injured tissues, relieve pain, reduce inflammation and stimulate cellular growth.
Generally, one can avail of this type of therapy at physiotherapy centers, chiropractors, neurologist's offices, orthopedic and rehabilitation centers. The PEMF devices differ according to various features such as frequency, strength, and the types of waves. These PEMF apparatus usually come in multiple styles, such as full-body mats, localized pad applicators, pinpointed probes, spot applicators, and wearable PEMF devices.
Can PEMF Therapy Work On The Nervous System?
Anyone who has ever suffered from neurological damage due to disease, infection, or injury would have known how tricky our nervous system is to heal. Our nervous system consists of two parts: 1) The central nervous system or CNS, which includes the brain and the spinal cord, and 2) the peripheral nervous system or PNS, which includes nerves and the ganglia. As children, our nervous system cells or neurons continuously grow and form connections with each other. These connections are essential for communication between various parts of our body, brain, and spinal cord. These connections are vital to the functioning of every aspect of our bodies. As the nervous system matures in adults, the neurons lose their ability to grow and form new connections in a large number. Though PNS has some regeneration potential, the cells in the adult CNS have minimal growth and repair potential following injury or disease. So, any neurological damage and the resulting loss of function is tough to heal in adults. As promising as it sounds in theory, the question is, can PEMF therapy bring back the lost part due to nervous system damage or injury?
What Does Science Say?
Several studies that have been conducted in the laboratories, in animals, and humans over the past years have suggested a beneficial role of PEMF therapy in repair and regeneration on the nervous system tissues and cells. Here is how PEMF has been shown to influence the nervous system:
• Increase in the number of cells near the injury site: PEMF therapy can promote the migration of neurons from the surrounding areas to the injury site. As a result, the density of cells increases near the damaged area. This density spike is helpful in healing as it promotes the formation of new connections in the cells. And, once the connections are formed, the function lost due to the injury can come back. E.g., Pulse burst electromagnetic radiation has been shown to increase the numbers of neurons that reestablish appropriate connections and recovery of the use of the injured limb in the experimental animals following a nerve injury.
• Easement of neuropathic pain: PEMF devices offer a non-drug approach to pain management and a potential decrease in medication use and dependency. Peripheral neuropathy can result when the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord are damaged. This condition can create sharp pain, weakness, numbness, and pain throughout the body, often hands and feet. Diabetes is the most common cause of neuropathy. However, other underlying issues such as are injury, infections, toxin exposures, nutrient deficiencies, and genetic and autoimmune disorders can also cause neuropathy in individuals. PEMF therapy can reduce neuropathy symptoms safely, conveniently, and cost-effectively. Neuropathic pain arises explicitly from abnormal electric activity in the neurons due to electric disbalance. PEMF has been shown to calm the nerves by regulating the electric activity and balance in the neurons. Studies have found that using PEMF every day for at least 12 minutes improves pain vibration sensation in muscle strength in patients with diabetic neuropathy.
• Improvement of the brain metabolism: PEMF therapy energizes the cells to facilitate the easy uptake of oxygen by the cells. This increased supply of oxygen to the neurons helps in improving the metabolism of the brain, which then positively influence inflammatory and degenerative processes.
• Increase pain tolerance by the brain: Animal studies have shown that PEMF reduces pain receptors in the brain. Thus, altering the perception of chronic pain. As a result, one can feel less pain and go on with life.
Although PEMF therapy has so many beneficial features, it is always good to take advice from your healthcare provider before choosing the proper treatment. The "one-size-fits-all" approach does not work with PEMF. So, you may need help selecting the best unit for your specific needs. A doctor may also advise you to add other complementary treatment options and PEMF therapy. And depending on your situation, the doctor may make specific recommendations for using PEMF therapy, such as which electromagnetic frequency to use, how often to use the device, and the duration of each therapy session.
PEMF therapy is a safe and non-invasive way to improve health. If appropriately administered and supplemented with current healthcare modalities, PEMF can be beneficial to nervous system repair. Individuals suffering from neurological issues such as chronic back pain due to herniated or ruptured discs, sciatic nerve pain, nervous system injury, stroke, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's disease can benefit significantly from PEMF therapy.
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