Virginia Thornley, M.D., Neurologist, Epileptologist
April 8, 2018
Some scientific studies corroborating its effectiveness while some could not come up with an effective conclusion nor a negative outcome
It has found its way in a myriad of conditions including pain, psychiatric disorders such as depression, neurological conditions making it a plausible alternative in treating medical conditions. In a randomized controlled clinical study evaluating pain from knee osteoarthritis in 57 patients, an electrodeless therapy delivered a sinusoidal magnetic field of about 4-12 hertz in the treated group. The treated group showed a great reduction in pain, stiffness, and disability compared to the control group with sham treatment. Using the VAS visual analog scale for pain and WOMAC (Western Ontario and McMaster University Index. Effectiveness was graded as very good and good in the PEMF treated group at 29% and 27% respectively compared to the sham-treated group at 0% and 15.5% (1).
In a pilot study of 24 patients, PEMF was applied showing a 50% reduction to neuropathic pain in a study in 2005 (2).
In one study of failed back surgery cases, PEMF was applied to 35 patients for 45 days. 67% of responders claimed meaningful improvement compared to sham-treated, 44% had less back pain 55% had less leg pain in those treated. There was a higher response 60% in those who had a discectomy compared to those without(3).
PEMF was applied to a large group of patients of 482 and compared to 448 non-PEMF patients. Those PEMF-treated had a significant reduction of pain (4).
One review of 14 randomized clinical trials could not come up with a general conclusion supporting its effectiveness due to different types of frequencies, different parameters, and different settings used.
While there have been numerous reports spanning 3 decades on not just pain but other conditions as well such as edema and healing in the post-operative state in plastic surgery, effectiveness in bony diseases, insomnia, even depression, regarding its effectiveness, the jury is still out. Large uniform clinical randomized trials are needed to officially approve of this alternative type of treatment for it to be widely accepted as is always the case. As with acupuncture which was previously considered Eastern medicine and has now gained popularity in treating medical conditions, anything novel will be met with some amount of skepticism. However, for any cutting edge open-minded physician this may be a non-risky alternative treatment in treating different medical conditions, when a patient has already failed everything. Just like Neo on the Matrix one may just need to take the red pill to keep your mind open.
- Wuschech, et al, “Effects of PEMF on patients with osteoarthritis:results of a prospective, placebo controlled double blind study,” Bioenergetics, 2015 Dec., 36(8):576-85
- Weintraub, et al, “Pulsed magnetic field therapy in refractory neuropathic pain secondary to peripheral neuropathy:electrodiagnostic parameters-pilot study,” Neurorehab. Neural Repair., 2004, Mar., 18 (1): 42-46
Harper, et al, “An open-label pilot study of pulsed electromagnetic field therapy in the treatment of failed back surgery syndrome pain,” Int. Med Case Rev. J., 2014, Dec., 8:13-22
Ryang, et al, “Effects of pulsed electromagnetic field on the knee osteoarthritis a systematic review,” Rheumatology, 2013, May, 52 (5) 815-824.