Dealing with inflammation and chronic pain can seem like a never-ending struggle. Although there are numerous options for management, many involve invasive treatments or long courses of medication.
One option that can manage the symptoms and effects of chronic pain and inflammation is PEMF therapy. In this article, we’ll look at what PEMF therapy is, some of its benefits, and how it can help manage these conditions.
What is PEMF Therapy?
PEMF stands for Pulsed Electro-Magnetic Field. In short, this magnetic therapy involves pulsing electromagnetic energy into the body to help stimulate and exercise cells. Rather than adding new “things” into the body, it instead promotes natural cellular processes to aid pain relief and recovery.
How Does PEMF Therapy Work?
As you may already know, our bodies run on electricity. The signals sent around your nervous system are electrical, and these signals help manage and control cells. PEMF therapy simply creates a large electromagnetic field around your body, which influences cellular metabolism.
The process is as follows:
- The patient lies or sits and the machine is turned on.
- The machine’s mat creates a magnetic field around the body.
- This causes cells to become positively charged, which, in turn, stimulates other electrical currents. This triggers a pulse.
- Cells use this electrical pulse to start healing themselves.
The current scientific understanding of PEMF therapy is that it stimulates voltage-gated calcium channels within cells. This leads to the release of calcium and nitric oxide, which helps stimulate blood vessel production. While we don’t need to get too deep into the science of how it works, it’s always helpful to have a basic understanding.
Most traditional PEMF therapy machines are mats set up on a chair or the floor. You lie on it and it creates an electromagnetic field. However, there are other accessories and devices for PEMF therapy, some of which can provide more targeted stimulation and pain relief.
A session of magnetic therapy can last anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours. It’s low risk enough that it can be done daily, although most patients receive a few sessions a week. You can either have it administered professionally or you can buy at-home devices. Note, though, that at-home PEMF therapy mats will never be as strong as a professional device.
Because PEMF therapy works with electromagnetism, the intensity of the treatment is dictated by frequency (in hertz) and field strength (in Tesla). The most common frequencies for PEMF therapy are 6-57Hz with a field strength of 0.4-2.3 milli-Tesla.
The Benefits of PEMF Therapy
PEMF therapy is, overall, a useful treatment for a range of conditions. To understand why, here are some of its clearest benefits.
1. It’s non-invasive
Perhaps the most important benefit for anyone seeking pain management is that PEMF therapy is non-invasive. It simply involves sitting on a mat that creates a magnetic field. Unlike other pain and inflammation treatments, it doesn’t involve surgery or anything else that could be considered risky.
2. There’s no medication involved
While this isn’t to say you won’t be able to give up any medication you’re on, PEMF therapy itself doesn’t involve any medication. Considering you might already be on a few different prescriptions, this is a big help.
3. It’s proven as a treatment for chronic pain
Discussing the benefits of a particular treatment means nothing if there’s no proof to back up its efficacy. Luckily, there’s plenty of research about PEMF therapy in relation to pain management.
A 2018 study found that PEMF therapy halved the pain scores of patients who had recently undergone spinal surgery. The control group stated an average pain decrease of 18.6%, whereas the PEMF group stated a pain decrease of 40.2% in the same period.
A study from 2007 concluded that PEMF therapy may be a useful way to deal with the symptoms of fibromyalgia. It couldn’t say for certain because its test group was too small, but stated that larger trials would likely confirm the same findings.
Finally, a 2015 study looked into the effects of PEMF therapy on inflammation. It found that PEMF changes gene expression in scar tissue and soft tissue inflammation. In short, the therapy confirmed previous findings that PEMF therapy can help speed up the recovery time from inflammation.
There are hundreds more studies into the effects of PEMF therapy on chronic pain and inflammation. It’s safe to say that it’s certainly worth considering if you live with either of these conditions.
4. It helps with other conditions
Our main focus here is on PEMF therapy and physical conditions, but it can help ease mental health conditions, too. One study found that PEMF therapy almost completely relieved insomniacs of their symptoms over a 4-week period.
Similarly, PEMF therapy has been tested as a treatment for depression and anxiety. In 2014, a study found that twice-daily doses vastly increased patients’ remission of depression. Importantly, these people had what’s known as ‘treatment resistant depression’, meaning standard methods had failed to relieve them of their symptoms.
What Conditions Can PEMF Therapy Help?
In theory, PEMF therapy can be tested for almost any chronic pain or inflammation condition. It’s regularly used as management in the following conditions:
- Osteoarthritis – for stiffness, pain, and inflammation
- Joint inflammation and pain
- Injury recovery
- MS-related fatigue
- Pelvic pain
- Chronic back pain
This obviously isn’t a complete list of the conditions PEMF therapy can help. However, these all have trials backing up the efficacy of PEMF therapy. There is some research into its impact on mental health conditions, but it’s nowhere near as extensive.
It’s vital that you speak to your doctor or healthcare professional before trying PEMF therapy. Although it’s fairly low risk, there are some situations where it might not be entirely beneficial. Also, a healthcare professional can help you figure out the best course of treatment because there are plenty of ways to experience PEMF therapy.
Who Shouldn’t Use PEMF Therapy?
Generally, PEMF therapy is safe for almost everyone because it’s low-risk and non-invasive. However, there are a few situations in which it’s an absolute no-go. These are:
This hardly needs an explanation, but people who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant soon shouldn’t use PEMF therapy. A 1990 study found it had a noticeable impact on fetal and baby health in a group of rats. But if you’ve ever been pregnant, you’ll already know the kind of restrictions put on you while you’re carrying a baby.
This is another no-brainer, but if you have something like a pace-maker implanted, you should avoid any device that creates a magnetic field. The PEMF therapy can disrupt the pace-makers signal, leading to further complications.
People on Immunosuppressants
Finally, there are people on immunosuppressants. A benefit of PEMF therapy is that it stimulates an immune response, which is how it helps with inflammation. Of course, if you’re on immunosuppressants because of something like an organ transplant or medical treatment, you hardly want to stimulate your immune response. In transplant patients, it could cause the body to reject the organ.
Final Thoughts on PEMF Therapy
Overall, PEMF therapy is a low-risk and largely beneficial way of managing chronic pain and inflammation. Importantly, it’s non-invasive and works with the body’s natural processes to stimulate cellular production and recovery.
However, no therapy is completely without risk. As such, it’s important that you speak to a medical professional before you try PEMF therapy for symptom relief.
At Angel Hydrotherapy, our mission is to help you improve your overall health and quality of life. If you are unsure whether magnetic therapy is the right treatment for you, please don’t hesitate to get in touch and one of our experts will help answer all your questions.