As a mom, I’m always looking for the least invasive ways to optimize our family’s health. It’s even better when I don’t have to leave the house! That’s why I’m excited to tell you about Pulsed ElectroMagnetic Field therapy, or PEMF for short.
Everyday electricity from our appliances, computers, WiFi, phones and other electromagnetic fields (EMFs) bombard us. Since we are electric beings, we need to do something to help balance out these unnatural frequencies, especially since it is not possible to live without electricity. I don’t want to give up my kitchen appliances or cell phone just to avoid the negative effects of electricity.
The earth provides us with frequencies that can lower our stress and have other potential health benefits through earthing and grounding.
What if you can’t get outside barefoot as much as you’d like?
What Is PEMF?
I’ve been fascinated by PEMF therapy, a non-invasive modality, to help recharge the body’s electrical systems. PEMF stands for Pulsed ElectroMagnetic Fields.
When we think of electricity in our bodies, we commonly think of the heart muscle since we shock people back to life. However, our mitochondria, which are in every cell in our body, have electrical impulses that control our daily functions. On a cellular level, we are made of electricity.
So how do we optimize our body’s electrical charge?
Biological medicine expert Dr. Jeoff Drobot (in this podcast episode) compares PEMFs to battery chargers. When you increase the voltage of the body’s cell, it helps you perform better on a cellular level.
PEMF technology seeks to mimic the resonant frequencies we’d naturally get from the earth through grounding to help recharge our cellular batteries. I like to think of it as grounding on steroids.
If this sounds dangerous, don’t worry— it doesn’t feel like being electrocuted! To most people, PEMF therapy feels like a light, relaxing tingle.
A PEMF device passes an electrical current through a wire coil, which generates pulsed electromagnetic fields that our cells can absorb. However, the current has to be wired a certain way to have therapeutic effects.
PEMF vs. EMF
When I first heard about PEMFs, I wrongly assumed they are harmful like EMFs, but I quickly learned how they differ.
Unless specified otherwise, electrical devices have an alternating current in which the direction changes periodically. It’s this alternating current (AC) that EMFs come from and can negatively affect us and our body’s electrical systems.
On the other hand, PEMFs use a direct current (DC) in which the electric charge only flows in one direction, which may be less stressful for the body. Harnessing this therapeutic effect may help us better absorb the earth-like resonant frequencies.
While we are exposed to EMFs all day long, PEMF therapy only lasts a short time—only 15-30 minutes per session.
How Pulsed ElectroMagnetic Field Therapy Works
Experts have tried PEMF therapy on many conditions, as you’ll see below. There are two ways to do it: passive and active.
Passive vs. Active
The most common way to do PEMF therapy is passive. With passive therapy, you can either sit on a PEMF mat or put pads (that have a coil inside) directly on the area of complaint. Some practitioners will put the current on themselves and then massage the area for you for an extra boost.
The most significant advantage of passive therapy is that you don’t have to do anything to receive it other than sit (or stand). This makes it a viable option for those with chronic fatigue and other conditions.
On the other hand, some athletes use active PEMFs to enhance their performance. In the same podcast interview with Dr. Jeff that I mentioned above, he explains that athletes will turn the charge up high enough to produce electrons, giving the body extracellular output and performance. However, it does feel like you’re being shocked by an electric fence!
We will primarily examine passive PEMF in this article, but you can learn more about how fitness expert Ben Greenfield uses PEMF and other biohacks in this podcast interview.
Why It’s So Popular
Compared to medications and other painful modalities, PEMF stands out for multiple reasons:
- Non-invasive – It doesn’t require surgery or needles.
- Short treatments – The times vary from about 15-30 minutes.
- Painless – You don’t feel anything (other than wanting to relax) during a session.
- Portable – Even if you can’t afford your own device, many practitioners will bring them to your home.
- Safe to stack with other treatments – So far, there’s no evidence of interfering with medications or treatments, so it can be used in combination with other protocols and may even enhance them in some instances.
- Few side effects – I only came across one study that listed headaches as a side effect during T-PEMF treatments. These headaches occurred less frequently each time.
- High compliance – Likely due to all the reasons stated above, multiple studies noted that almost all patients completed the studies, which is not typical for most medical experiments.
Whether you want to use it for general well-being or pain relief, I don’t see any risks that warrant not trying it. However, always talk to your doctor before starting any new medical regimens.
The Science on PEMF Therapy
Science has started to identify the unique ways in which PEMF technology recharges our electrical systems and boosts cellular health.
When I read The Body Electric by Robert O. Becker and Gary Selde, it sparked my interest in all of this.
Health Benefits of PEMF
We are still learning everything that PEMFs do in the body. Here’s what we do know it helps with:
- Growth factors
- Protein expression
- Stem cell activity
- Blood flow
- Cell proliferation – It enhances cell growth and regeneration.
- Apoptosis – It reduces cell death, and it may help cells regenerate and divide correctly (as opposed to cancerous cells that do it incorrectly).
- Nitric oxide production – This is an essential compound, especially for people with metabolic syndromes like diabetes.
- Chronic inflammation – Likely due to all of these benefits, this therapy lessens the body’s inflammatory signals.
Preliminary studies are even exploring its benefits for reducing the long-term effects of Covid-19. Likewise, a 2018 study saw it reduce the viability of antifungal resistant, pathogenic yeasts like Candida that can take over entire hospital wings.
There are many conditions in which PEMF therapy may be beneficial. Feel free to skim the science for whatever ails you and your family.
The most well-known therapeutic effects of PEMF are for joint dysfunction. It looks promising for both acute and chronic pain from sports injuries to autoimmune diseases.
- Tendon regeneration
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Non-healing bone fractures
- Back pain and neck pain
- Multiple sclerosis
Another area PEMF appears to affect is healing skin injuries and lesions. Some of the notable improvements have been for diabetic wounds and frostbite.
I wish I had known about PEMF after my own c-section. It’s now used on surgical sites for enhanced recovery and fewer pain medications.
Our brains might be our most important organ. (Or is it just my brain telling me that?) PEMF therapy had a positive effect on the following:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Concussion – The only study with minor side effects I came across was a 2020 study in which two patients reported worsening symptoms and headaches during treatment, but these symptoms decreased with each treatment. The majority reported a reduction in symptoms at the end.
- Depression – It augments the effects of antidepressant medication and also appears effective in reducing depression in those who didn’t respond to medications.
- Multiple chemical sensitivity – Even though a 2017 study “showed no effect on functional impairments in MCS, [there was] a significant decrease in symptom severity.” In other words, the patients couldn’t get back to regular life activities like work and caring for their families, but they had fewer symptoms.
PEMFs inhibit cancer growth and have an immunomodulatory effect. In 2017, a lung cancer study showed that it “induced (cancer) cell death.”
It also significantly reduces cancer cell viability. This is all great news for those battling cancer.
Areas for Further Study
No one claims this tool to be a miracle cure. There are some preliminary studies for conditions that PEMF therapy didn’t help.
- Fibromyalgia – A 2018 study on fibromyalgia did not find any effect in “reducing pain and stiffness or in improving functioning in women with fibromyalgia.”
- Tremors – Eight weeks of daily T-PEMF treatment had no effect in a 2019 Danish study.
- Late-stage wound healing – Even though it sped up early wound recovery, it may slow recovery during the remodeling phase of healing.
However, the scientific recommendations for PEMF aren’t consistent. There’s no consensus on the most effective frequency of the hertz in the coils, nor on the minimum time required to reap benefits. We need more standardized research.
This is why it is important to work with an experienced practitioner who knows what may best fit your particular needs.
How I Use It
Despite the lack of scientific consensus on specific variables, my husband and I are comfortable using our PEMF devices on our families because it’s still great for general wellness.
We have a Pulse Center PEMF unit. I sit or lay on it based on what muscle groups I’m trying to target. It feels really soothing and makes it easy to relax, almost like a massage.
My husband and I are comfortable letting our kids use it. It’s especially helpful when they have sore muscles.
If I need to move around and get things done while getting my PEMF therapy, I like to use a portable device, like this FlexPulse PEMF device. It has ten different settings so I can customize it for my needs.
There’s no pain at all when using these PEMF devices. It’s almost like a soothing vibration. With the pads, I can definitely tell it’s increasing the blood flow to that area.
Here are the devices I recommend:
- Higher Dose Travel Mat
- Higher Dose Far Infrared Mat
- FlexPulse padded device
- Pulse Center padded device
Overall, I’m glad I have this tool to help me optimize my general health and also for when we need it for more acute situations.
Where to Find It Near You
If you aren’t ready to invest in your own PEMF device, one way to try it out is to find a practitioner near you. Since there isn’t a database of PEMF practitioners, you can search some of the larger brands to find a location near you. I recommend the following:
Have you tried PEMF therapy yet? How did you like it?
This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Michelle Sands, ND. She is double board certified in Integrative Medicine and Naturopathic Medicine and is also a Board-Certified Holistic Nutritionist, and competitive endurance athlete. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.