Written by:
Eric Anderson
Published on:
June 21, 2022

What is PEMF Therapy?

Pulsed electromagnetic field therapy is a general wellness modality that gives your body the energy it needs to function optimally.  The more energy you have, the better you feel!  

In this article I will help you learn more about PEMF technology, PEMF treatment options and show why PEMF therapy is now a key element in my wellness routine.

I’ve been an endurance athlete for 20 years and have done 11 Ironman triathlons, so needless to say I’m a little upset that I’ve only recently discovered this technology!

What does PEMF therapy do?

PEMF gives your cells more energy.

There are trillions of cells in the human body. And the health of those cells determines your overall health.

Each of these cells function like a rechargeable battery.  So, by introducing an electromagnetic charge to the cells, we are able to stimulate and exercise them while providing extra energy.

And with that extra energy, the body is able to heal and regulate itself for more optimal function.

A PEMF device is basically a whole body battery recharger.

Pulsed electromagnetic field therapy (PEMF therapy) works at the cellular level to improve quality of life and relieve chronic pain.

And it does this without any discomfort or medically invasive procedures!

Is PEMF therapy effective?

There have been over 10,000 scientific papers written on PEMF devices, and more than 2,000 double-blind clinical studies performed. These clinical trials have been performed by researchers all around the world.

Electromagnetic therapy has been around for hundreds of years. The traditional healthcare system has been slow to adopt PEMF treatments though!

The FDA first approved PEMF therapy in 1979 for the healing of nonunion bone fractures. The technology has since been approved for the treatment of urinary incontinence, muscle stimulation, cervical fusion patients, depression, anxiety, and even brain cancer.

In 2003, NASA published some groundbreaking research. Astronauts in space generally suffer bone loss and muscle atrophy due to not having to fight gravity all the time. So, Dr. Goodwin ran a 4-year study to determine if PEMF could help.

The study showed that cells exposed to PEMF regenerated 2.5 to 4.0 times more than cells that were not exposed to PEMF!

All spacecraft now include magnetic field generators to help simulate the healing effects of Earth’s electromagnetic field.

Back here on Earth, this systematic review from 2013 “provided suggestive evidence supporting PEMF efficacy in the management of knee osteoarthritis.”

This meta-analysis from 2016 showed “PEMF therapy seems to be able to relieve the pain intensity and improve functionality in individuals with low back pain conditions.”

This randomized controlled trial from 2018 explored pulsed electromagnetic field therapy for pain management following lumbar surgery. Low-back pain decreased by 40.2% in the PEMF group, compared to only 25.6% for the placebo group. Average leg pain decreased by 45.0% in the PEMF group, compared to only 24.5% in the placebo!

This randomized controlled trial from 2019 showed that “PEMF therapy in cervical disc herniation can be used safely in routine treatment in addition to conventional physical therapy modalities.”

And this meta-analysis from 2020: “compared with placebo, there was a beneficial effect of PEMF therapy on pain, stiffness, and physical function in patients with osteoarthritis.”

What are the health benefits of PEMF therapy?

Just about everybody can benefit from having more energy and optimal cellular function, but here are 7 main benefits of PEMF therapy.

Chronic Pain Relief

Pain management is one of the most common uses of PEMF technology. Our clients report lasting pain relief in as little as one session.

The pain relief comes in two forms:

  1. PEMF therapy promotes the release of endorphins in the body. Each and every one of your trillions of cells has receptors for these feel-good chemicals. More endorphins = more pain relief.
  2. PEMF therapy supports the body’s ability to heal and restore. And when damaged tissues are healed, the pain signal stops firing.

Better Sleep

PEMF stimulates the release of melatonin, which is the most important hormone for sleep.

It also assists with the production of human growth hormone (HGH), another key hormone for sleep.

And if we use PEMF therapy at frequencies that mirror our brainwaves while sleeping (0.5-7.0 Hz), we can help assist the transition into a deep night of sleep.

Enhanced Performance

It’s pretty simple - if your cells have more energy, your body will have more energy.  

Which means you get to feel more vitality across all areas of your life.  At the gym, around your kids, in the bedroom...you name it.

The main unit of energy in the body is ATP.  And PEMF increases the activity of the key enzymes required to both produce and utilize ATP.

On top of that, PEMF also assists with oxygen absorption and increases nitric oxide levels in the body.  Both of which are key components in your performance as a human!

Less Stress

It’s no secret that the world’s collective nervous system is a little fried, to put it mildly.

Our central nervous system has both a sympathetic (fight or flight) response and a parasympathetic (rest and digest) response.

Most of the modern world is WAY over-stressed, which causes the sympathetic mode to dominate.  

And after years of elevated cortisol and adrenaline in this constant state of stress, it‘s only a matter of time until we see burnout and exhaustion.

PEMF helps shift your body out of “fight or flight” mode and back into the parasympathetic mode, where relaxation and healing occur.

By significantly lowering cortisol levels and balancing out the nervous system, PEMF is able to help you destress and avoid more serious stress-related health issues.

Stronger Bones

The first major use case for PEMF therapy was encouraging broken bones to heal.  

Thanks to a phenomenon known as the piezoelectric effect, our bones naturally produce a minor electrical current when we move around or do any weight-bearing exercises.  These microcurrents stimulate special cells within the bones called osteoblast cells, which then produce bone matter.

Pulsed electromagnetic field therapy stimulates the osteoblast cells by directly inducing those microcurrents.

PEMF has actually seen huge success in the equestrian world, and you will find a Pulse Centers device at many of the top stables around the world.  Horses don’t have egos or ask questions - they just enjoy the bone healing properties!

Faster Recovery

Whether you’re looking to bounce back after an injury or just recover more quickly after a hard workout, PEMF devices can be a huge help.

There are 60,000 miles of blood vessels in the human body.  PEMF helps improve blood flow to your capillaries, which are the smallest and - in a lot of ways - the most important piece of your circulatory system.

Delivering fresh, nutrient-rich blood to your cells is essential to the recovery process.  Not only does PEMF improve circulation in the bloodstream, it also increases the net charge of your red blood cells.  

And when your red blood cells are fully charged, they repel each other.  This prevents them from clumping together and makes your blood less viscous.

PEMF also helps promote tissue regeneration.  The body is remarkably efficient at healing itself when given the proper resources to do so!

Stronger Immunity

Healthy cells functioning optimally are able to eliminate waste products much more efficiently than unhealthy cells.

And when you combine that efficient waste removal with the increased blood oxygenation and circulation provided by PEMF therapy, you have a body fully equipped to get rid of any viruses, bacteria, or parasites.

On top of all that, PEMF increases cellular voltage AND increases the pH of the cells.  Germs simply cannot survive inside of cells with optimal voltage and pH.

How does PEMF therapy work?

Pulsed electromagnetic field therapy works by applying low frequency pulses of electromagnetic energy to the body.

This energy is introduced to the body through a gentle, invisible electromagnetic field generated by a PEMF machine.

This electromagnetic energy then finds it way to your cells, creating a therapeutic effect as cellular voltage and optimal function are restored.

It’s still a bit of a mystery how this all happens, but this study from 2019 is particularly interesting.

Without getting too in the weeds here, researchers discovered some compelling evidence that PEMF helps calcium ions move into the cell more efficiently.

And when more calcium ions are making their way into the cell, more mitochondria are produced.  And on top of that, the mitochondria also function more effectively.

You may remember from middle school science that the mitochondria are the “power plants” of the cell. So, having more mitochondria, and having them function more effectively, results in more energy for the cell.  And then more energy for the body!

I feel like we’re only scratching the surface here, and am excited to see what discoveries are made as follow-ups to these studies play out.

How is PEMF Therapy administered?

There are dozens of PEMF devices on the market.

Some of these PEMF devices are portable and designed to be worn for hours at a time, or even 24/7. These operate at a very low intensity and provide a gentle level of magnetic stimulation to help with bone healing or disruptive sleep patterns.

An example of a device like this is the NovoTTF-100A, which was found to be as effective as chemotherapy in this phase 3 clinical trial from 2011.

At The Ocean Lab, we have the top-of-the-line Pulse Centers XL Pro, which is exponentially more powerful than an at-home unit. It looks like a desktop computer out of the 90’s, and is the only solid state PEMF device on the market.

99% of PEMF machines use a spark plug gap, where electrons are literally jumping from one tungsten rod to another. This works pretty well - until it doesn’t.

On the other hand, the solid state XL Pro delivers consistent pulsing every time. And because there’s no moving parts, we are able to adjust both the intensity of the magnetic field and the pulses per second of that field independently.

The other huge advantage of the XL Pro over other systems is the number of attachments available. These accessories allow for targeted, personalized use of pulsed electromagnetic field therapy depending on your goals.

Your first few sessions will be guided by one of our certified experts, who will help lay out a treatment plan for you.

We generally start with 10-15 minutes on either the total body bed or in the rocking chair. By starting broad and scanning the entire body, we usually get clues from the nervous system on which areas need more energy.

For example, if a client is dealing with low back pain, we are able to target the soft tissue in that region using either the square pad or the paddles.

If a client is dealing with knee pain or a bone fracture, we can use the rings to really drive energy into more dense, boney areas.

Or in some cases we just keep the client on the total body bed the entire time. Whole-body treatments allow energy to flow all up and down the spinal cord, which can be great for conditions like neuropathy or general fatigue.

Any PEMF at all is better than no PEMF though.  So, even if you’re nowhere near The Ocean Lab, find yourself a device and feel the technology for yourself!

Aren’t EMFs bad for you?

For more than 3 billion years, the only electromagnetic energy on Earth was naturally occurring.  There was the Schumann frequency produced by the Earth itself, light/heat from the sun, and small amounts of x-rays and gamma rays from the other elements of outer space.

As Nikola Tesla said so elegantly, “Our entire biological system, the brain, and the earth itself work on the same frequencies.”

With the invention of electricity and radio though, we are now exposed to over 100 million times more EMF (electromagnetic field) radiation than our grandparents.  Traditional medical advice pays very little attention to this fact.

The electromagnetic fields (EMFs) created by PEMF devices are generally very low frequency (0-30Hz).  That means they work alongside the natural energies of Earth and play a complementary role in assisting the body’s natural functions.

The harmful EMFs that come from cell phones, computers, power lines, cell towers, and microwaves do the opposite.  They are a form of high-frequency radiation that look nothing like any naturally occurring electromagnetic fields.  Ionizing frequencies (x-rays, gamma rays, etc.) can even interfere with normal cellular function, leading to dysfunction in the cells.

So, not only are we not getting enough of the good EMFs, we are also getting assaulted by the bad EMFs.

With the regular use of PEMF treatments and consistent follow-up, we are able to give our cells more of the healing EMFs they need to help balance out the effects from exposure to the harmful EMFs.

Is it the same as a TENS unit?

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a healing modality that runs low voltage electrical current directly through the body. Electrodes are placed on the surface of your skin near nerves or trigger points that are causing pain.

The direct application of electricity stimulates the nervous system, which can lead to some temporary pain relief as the brain gets overwhelmed with stimulation. There is no actual repair happening, however, as TENS units do not stimulate tissue repair.

PEMF, on the other hand, support the repair and healing of damaged tissues. By working at the cellular level, we are able to target the root cause and - if all goes well - eliminate the source of the pain.

The other key difference is that TENS uses electrical current, which requires direct skin contact. So, if you want to move to a different body part, you have to re-attach the pads. And if the pads aren’t placed correctly, then you have to start the whole process over again.

PEMF uses electromagnetic fields, which effortlessly pass through the body and any clothing. There is no required contact with the skin, and you are able to target entire regions of the body instead of individual nerve regions.

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation can be pretty effective at stimulating the opioid system and changing the perception of pain. But even if you temporarily get some pain relief, that still doesn’t heal the root cause of that pain.

PEMF gets to the source of the pain while helping improve energy levels and enhancing your overall well-being.

Who should not use pulsed electromagnetic field therapy?

Anybody with an electrical implant (pacemaker, glucose monitor) should not use PEMF. The electromagnetic energy can disrupt the function of any electronic devices.

There has been little to no research done on PEMF therapy and pregnancy, so pregnant women are also discouraged from using PEMF.

Anybody going through a major detoxification process should also exercise caution when using PEMF therapy. A small percentage of PEMF users may experience some detox symptoms. PEMF improves blood flow and cellular function. So, if your cells were filled with waste products, then you may run into issues if you aren’t properly hydrated! No different than if you were getting a particularly deep tissue massage. These rare detox symptoms can include headaches, brain fog, fatigue, and nausea.

If you’re having any hesitations, seek medical advice from your doctor before starting a treatment plan.

What is the cost of PEMF therapy?

PEMF therapy pricing varies wildly across clinics and practitioners.  There are so many devices out there, especially on the lower end, that it’s tricky to make any blanket statements.

Generally speaking, PEMF treatments are bundled in as part of a larger treatment plan.  This is especially true with chiropractors or orthopedic surgeons, who may recommend wearing one of the low intensity units to promote bone healing after a major procedure.

Sessions on our XL Pro are priced in line with what you’d pay for a 60-minute massage.  We also offer a number of packages at discounted rates, with even deeper discounts for members.

Check out our 3-session intro package and see if PEMF therapy is right for you!

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