PEMF: A New Magic Wand for Arthritis

December 28, 2015

PEMF: A New Magic Wand for Arthritis Therapy 

 Reference: Bioelectromagnetics Nov 2015 

 Do you know what PEMF is?   It stands for pulsed, electromagnetic field therapy.   Pulses of a magnetic field are generated by a device and those fields are applied to various tissues.   It has been available in Europe since at least the 1970s.   For whatever reason, it was strictly forbidden for humans in the USA. Veterinarians were the first to adapt to it in America for injured animals with broken bones. It worked. Sports medicine doctors started using it off-label in athletes. 

Finally, in 1979 the FDA approved it for humans with non-union fractures. On October 13th this year (two months ago) the FDA lowered the classification status from Class 3 to Class 2, making it much easier to market and advertise. That also makes the devices cheaper. We are likely to see more of these devices. 

 What do they do again?  These devices create a magnetic field. On planet earth, we live in a magnetic field all the time because the earth has a molten iron core that is spinning.   That magnetic field wanders, occasionally flips over and waxes and wanes, but notably is there most of the time. That is useful because it protects us from the solar wind that would otherwise strip all of our water away, like off Mars. You can test the magnetic field with a compass that will point to magnetic north.   These devices create a small, local magnetic field just like earth’s. You may not feel the magnetic field, but your dog does, and poops most of the time in alignment with it! Birds, fish, monarch butterflies, and possibly many mammals like bats can also sense it and use if for migrations or homing.   

We humans may be able to sense it, but that’s open for debate. Research has shown that your tissue will respond to a magnetic field with faster healing.   In the now-famous Soma study, rabbits had a 1 cm segment of their ulna removed surgically and then given PEMF or sham PEMF. The treated rabbits healed in 28 days, whereas the sham treatment resulted in nothing. So what does this study tell us?   57 adults with an average arthritis score of 2.8, and an average age of 61 were treated for five minutes, twice a day for 18 days. This is really not much treatment.   With that modest treatment, the treated folks reached statistical significance of improvement   ( > .001) in pain, stiffness, and disability for activities of daily living.   That’s pretty interesting! 

There are beginning to be other studies too that align with the same concept. It appears that PEMF stimulates the generation of stem cells and new growth.   For example, stem cells from fat tissue can be shown to stimulate cartilage growth. Wouldn’t that be popular! And fat tissue may be better than bone marrow as a source of stem cells. Osteoarthritis in the elderly may be particularly helped. And do you know anyone over 60 who doesn’t have an ache or two? Isn’t this interesting? Don’t you want to give it a try? Are there adverse side effects? Well, you can have an MRI and not be harmed (intense local magnetic field). And as best we know, no serious side effects have been documented to date. 

 WWW. What will work for me.   I’m into this idea. I’ve seen enough anecdotes already in my experience of people getting better.   I’ve purchased 10 of these devices and want to try it out in my practice. I think this is a technology we should pay attention to.   Just get rechargeable batteries so that you don’t use up too many regular 9V batteries. 

 Pop Quiz

  1. Electromagnetic fields have an effect on cellular environments? T or F                 Answer:  True. Not completely sure what
  1. Cellular reaction to PEMF is often to invoke anti-inflammatory reactions? T or F               Answer:    True
  1. Human’s can sense the earth’s magnetic field? T orF                      Answer:  Probably false, but this position would be considered heresy in Sedona, AZ
  1. Rabbits repair their bones much faster under PEMF conditions? T or F                  Answer:  True
  1. Elderly folks with painful arthritis get less pain, more flexibility, and better function from joints with continuous PEMF therapy? T or F                          Answer:  False. All those good things happened with 5 minutes, twice a day over just 18 days.
  1. There may be serious side effects from PEMF? T or F                      Answer:  Are you kidding. We can’t find any!