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Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy


What is pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) therapy? How does it work?

Pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) therapy stimulates tissues using either local or full body application of electromagnets. The pulsing on and off of these magnets enhances the transport of minerals across cell membranes. This allows cells to take in resources and get rid of waste products more efficiently. PEMF also restores electrical charge to cell membranes which breaks up scar tissue and groups of red blood cells that have clumped together. Releasing scar tissue allows for increased mobility while breaking up clumps of red blood cells allow for better oxygenation of tissues. PEMF also prevents water molecules from congregating around calcium ions, thus allowing cells to utilize calcium more efficiently which is important for muscle/nerve function, immune health, and adaptation to stress.

All these effects promote cellular efficiency, reduce inflammation, and speed all types of healing processes.

I thought electromagnetic fields were harmful. How does PEMF differ from electromagnetic fields produced by devices like cell phones?

One of the biggest concerns people have about PEMF therapy is associated with the negative effects of other electromagnetic fields (EMFs), like those created by cell phones or microwave ovens.  All EMFs, whether helpful or harmful, interact with biological processes like enzymatic function, cell replication, tissue regeneration, and nervous system and hormone regulation. The exposure time, wavelength, and frequency of these EMFs will determine whether they enhance or disrupt natural processes. 

Electromagnetic radiation is classified as either ionizing and non-ionizing based on the radiation’s capability of ionizing atoms and disrupting chemical bonds. Ultraviolet and high frequency radiation, like x-rays and gamma rays, are ionizing and therefore create heat. These types of radiation can be harmful, as many people have experienced when getting sunburned. Non-ionizing radiation like that utilized in PEMF therapy doesn’t carry enough energy to disrupt chemical bonds and therefore cannot cause tissue damage like ionizing radiation. Non-ionizing radiation, however, does excite molecules to higher energy states, which can improve health by increasing cellular efficiency. 

Power grids use 50-60Hz frequencies, as do some PEMF devices. However, power grid EMFs are damaging not because of the 50-60Hz frequency, but rather due to surges of much higher, short-wavelength EMFs that fall into the ionizing radiation category. PEMF machines have additional safeguards in the form of filters inside their frequency generators that mitigate uncontrolled surges that arise from electrical outlets to which they are connected.

What are the benefits of PEMF therapy?

  • Pain relief

  • Inflammation reduction

  • Improved circulation

  • Improved tissue repair and wound healing

  • Improved sleep

  • Reduction of anxiety and depression

What types of conditions can improve with PEMF therapy?

PEMF improves musculoskeletal pain syndromes and promotes recovery from activity. It can also improve chronic pain from conditions like neuropathy, poor circulation, and, wounds, fractures, and arthritis.  One HPS patient experienced increased memory and cognitive function with PEMF therapy.

How long do PEMF treatments last? How many treatments will I need? How soon can I expect to see results?

Length of results varies from patient to patient based on the type and severity of the condition. Patients with more acute and less severe problems may completely resolve after a single treatment whereas those with chronic or severe conditions may need to treatment every few days or few weeks.  Results typically are seen immediately after a 5-15 minute treatment session.

Are there any contraindications or side effects with PEMF?

Contraindications for PEMF therapy are for patients with implanted electronic medical devices (e.g., pacemakers, insulin pumps, spinal cord stimulators, defibrillators, etc.) as the magnetic field may interfere with the function of these devices.  For this reason, HPS recommends that all electronics, including cell phones and key fobs, are removed from the treatment area while the device is running. Metal rods, artificial joints, and screws from surgical corrections do not pose a problem, only computerized devices.  There is debate about the safety of PEMF for heart conditions, so HPS does not use PEMF for patients with known cardiac problems.

Side effects may include aching of the treated area due to increased circulation for up to two days post treatment. HPS has observed that PEMF has increased the rate at which abscessed infection is pushed out of the tissue. For this reason HPS uses PEMF with caution in cases of known infection.

How does HPS's device differ from home PEMF devices like the BEMER, OMI, iMRS, or QRS mats?

HPS's device is a 3T unit manufactured by PEMF Systems, Inc. The high intensity of this device allows it to produce results in as little as 5 minutes. While lower intensity devices can produce similar results, they must be used for longer periods of time, usually hours, to achieve similar effects to HPS's device.
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