Pulsed Electromagnetic Frequency (PEMF) heating mats are a wellness tool that combines the benefits of low-frequency electromagnetic waves with heat to promote cellular health and overall well-being. These mats contain copper coils that generate a pulsed electromagnetic field, which penetrates the body and interacts with cells, tissues, and bones.
PEMF therapy works by stimulating the cells’ natural electrical charge, promoting cellular repair, reducing inflammation, and increasing blood flow. Numerous scientific studies have supported the efficacy of PEMF therapy in addressing various health concerns, such as pain relief, muscle relaxation, improved sleep, and reduced stress levels.
The mats are the delivery device though, here’s more about the method and science below.
What Is PEMF and How Does It Work?
PEMF stands for Pulsed Electromagnetic Field therapy. It works by applying low-frequency electromagnetic waves to cells, which leads to improved cell function and health.
The waves penetrate the cells and stimulate their natural electrical fields, leading to improved circulation, reduced inflammation, and increased energy production. PEMF improves circulation and cellular function by increasing the body’s ability to release nitric oxygen.
This healing mechanism is important after injuries and may help decrease inflammation (1). This helps to improve the overall functioning of the cells, tissues, and organs, leading to better health and well-being.
PEMF therapy is non-invasive. It can be done using devices that emit electromagnetic radiation into the body. They are available in different forms, such as pads, mats, or wearable devices, and can treat many health conditions.
The specific effects of PEMF therapy on the cellular level can vary depending on the individual, device type, frequency and intensity of the electromagnetic waves used, and the condition to treat. It is best to consult a healthcare professional before using a PEMF device for any medical condition.
How Is PEMF Used To Treat Pain?
PEMF (Pulsed Electromagnetic Field therapy) treats different types of pain by exposing the affected area to pulsed electromagnetic fields. The exact mechanism by which PEMF therapy works to relieve pain is not fully understood.
However, it is believed to work by stimulating the cells and tissues in the affected area and increasing blood flow, which can help reduce pain and inflammation.
Here are a few examples of how PEMF therapy can treat different types of pain:
- Chronic pain: PEMF therapy helps improve circulation and reduce inflammation, thus alleviating chronic pain.
- Acute pain: PEMF can help reduce acute pain by blocking pain signals to the brain and promoting healing at the injury site.
- Arthritis pain: PEMF therapy treats pain and stiffness in the joints associated with arthritis.
- Neuropathic pain: PEMF therapy alleviates neuropathic pain caused by damage or nerve dysfunction.
- Post-surgical pain: PEMF therapy can help reduce post-surgical pain by promoting tissue healing and reducing inflammation.
- Sports injuries: PEMF therapy can treat sports injuries like sprains and strains by reducing inflammation and promoting healing.
- Musculoskeletal pain: PEMF therapy effectively alleviates pain and stiffness in individuals with musculoskeletal conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and back pain.
- Cancer-related pain: PEMF therapy has been used to control cancer-related pain by reducing inflammation and improving circulation.
- Fibromyalgia pain: PEMF therapy can reduce pain and improve the quality of sleep for people with fibromyalgia.
Several types of Pulsed Electromagnetic Field (PEMF) devices are available for pain management, each with unique features and capabilities. Here are some of the most popular:
- Mat Devices: Mat devices are perfect when lying on a flat surface. They are often large and cover the entire body, emitting low-frequency electromagnetic waves to penetrate deep into tissues and promote healing. These devices can help with chronic pain, musculoskeletal problems, and fibromyalgia.
- Pad Devices: Pad Devices: These are PEMF devices that treat specific areas of the body. These devices are smaller than mats and can be used to treat conditions like acute pain, neuropathic pain, and post-surgical pain.
- Loop Devices: These are devices placed around specific areas of the body, such as a joint or limb. These are perfect when treating conditions like arthritis, back pain, headaches, and others.
- Wand Devices: These are handheld PEMF devices that can be applied directly to specific areas of your body. These devices are helpful in cases of chronic pain, musculoskeletal discomfort, and fibromyalgia.
- Pulse Generators: Pulse generators are PEMF devices designed to be used with various accessories, such as pads or loops, to target specific body areas. They are effective in treating acute pain, neuropathic pain, and post-surgical pain.
- Implantable Devices: Implantable devices are surgically implanted into the body to provide long-term pain relief. They are best used for chronic pain, musculoskeletal pain, and fibromyalgia.
While PEMF therapy provides pain relief for most individuals, it is best to consult a healthcare provider before starting any new pain management therapy.
Pulsed Electromagnetic Field (PEMF) therapy is a non-invasive treatment option for pain relief. The typical treatment protocol for PEMF includes the following:
- Consult with a healthcare provider to determine the type and cause of pain.
- Use of a PEMF device, typically a mat or pad, applied directly to the affected area.
- PEMF application duration varies and can range from 1 hour for an average of 20 sessions for chronic conditions to 16 minutes daily for health maintenance. The duration of the treatment may vary depending on the brand used or the advice of a doctor.
- Gradual reduction in frequency and duration of PEMF sessions as pain improves.
- Maintenance of pain relief with occasional PEMF sessions or continued daily use.
It is important to follow the guidance of a healthcare provider and use PEMF therapy as part of an overall treatment plan for the best results.
Is PEMF Safe To Use?
Pulsed Electromagnetic Field (PEMF) therapy is generally safe for most people. However, there are some safety considerations to keep in mind (2):
- Pregnant women and people with implanted medical devices, such as pacemakers, should not use PEMF therapy without consulting a healthcare provider first.
- People with epilepsy or other seizure disorders should use PEMF therapy with caution.
- People with severe heart conditions or who are taking blood-thinning medications should also use PEMF therapy with caution.
- High-intensity PEMF therapy may cause skin irritation or redness in some individuals.
PEMF therapy, in general, has a low risk of side effects when used as directed. It is important to follow the guidance of a healthcare provider and use PEMF therapy as part of an overall treatment plan for the best results.
Some common side effects of using PEMF (pulsed electromagnetic field) for pain management include:
- Skin irritation
These side effects are usually mild and temporary and are avoidable by decreasing the frequency or intensity of PEMF therapy. Talk to a healthcare provider if you have concerns or experience serious side effects from PEMF therapy.
What Are the Potential Benefits of Using PEMF for Pain Relief?
PEMF (Pulsed Electromagnetic Field therapy) is generally considered safe and well-tolerated by most people, but there are some conditions or situations in which its use is not recommended. For example, tuberculosis, pregnancy, cardiac pacemaker or any implanted electrical device, malignancy, atrophic skin or scar tissue, and more (2).
Studies have shown that PEMF therapy can provide significant pain relief for many people, and its effects can be long-lasting, allowing for reduced reliance on pain medications. However, it is important to note that results can vary from person to person and that PEMF therapy may not be suitable or effective for everyone.
PEMF therapy is used primarily to treat acute pain from injuries and osteoarthritis. It improves the healing of soft tissue injuries, decreases swelling, and heals hematomas. Low-frequency PEMFs improve edema during treatment, while high-frequency PEMFs improve edema for several hours after treatment.
Individuals with neck pain from whiplash showed significant pain improvement with high-frequency PEMF at 27.12 MHz (3).
A study of 83 knee osteoarthritis patients found significant improvements in pain, stiffness, and function after 2 hours of treatment, 5 days a week for 6 weeks (4).
A different study aimed to investigate the impact of PEMF therapy and its parameters on the symptoms and quality of life of patients with OA.
The results showed that PEMF therapy had a positive impact on pain, stiffness, and physical function in OA patients compared to placebo (5). The length of treatment may not be a crucial element in managing pain. Further research is necessary to verify the effects of PEMF therapy on quality of life.
PEMF has also been helpful in alleviating pain associated with cancer treatments and fatigue linked to multiple sclerosis.
Studies in a lab environment suggest that PEMF therapy has anti-cancer and anti-angiogenic effects. The mechanisms of PEMF therapy have been understood, including disrupting cancer growth by altering the mitotic spindle and gene expression and protein synthesis through interaction with DNA in gene promoter regions.
In vivo studies also show that PEMF therapy suppresses tumor vascularization and growth by inhibiting angiogenesis in tumor tissues (6).
These studies indicate that PEMF therapy is both safe and promising compared to other cancer treatments. In the future, PEMF may be utilized as a primary therapy or in conjunction with other antineoplastic drugs.
As portable and affordable PEMF devices become more widely available, further controlled clinical studies should be performed to understand the potential of PEMF therapy in oncology.
Study of PEMF for Diabetic Neuropathy
The study enrolled 15 adults with significant diabetic neuropathy and used a newly designed coil developed by an Irish research company to apply PEMF therapy to the feet and neck/chest once a week for 8 weeks.
Patients monitored their blood sugar and underwent baseline testing for malondialdehyde. At the end of the study, pain scores were reduced by 52%, sensory loss improved by 65.8%, touch sensation improved by 65%, and vibratory sensation improved by 43%.
The study suggested significant improvement in circulation of the heart due to PEMF therapy.
The first study involved 10 adults and showed a significant reduction in pain and improvement in neurological function. The second study involved 15 adults and showed a 46.5% reduction in spontaneous pain, as well as improvements in pin sensation, touch, and vibration.
No significant changes were found in blood sugar levels, and longer treatment programs are needed to determine if complete resolution of diabetic neuropathy can be achieved.
In 2003, NASA conducted a study to determine if pulsed electromagnetic fields (PEMF) could help astronauts prevent bone loss and muscle atrophy in space. The study found that cells exposed to PEMF regenerated 2.5 to 4.0 times more than cells that were not exposed to PEMF. As a result, magnetic field generators are now included in spacecraft to simulate the healing effects of Earth’s electromagnetic field.
A 2019 randomized controlled trial found that PEMF therapy can be safely used alongside conventional physical therapy modalities for the treatment of cervical disc herniation.
A meta-analysis conducted in 2020 found that pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) therapy had a positive effect on pain, stiffness, and physical function in patients with osteoarthritis, as compared to placebo.
How long does it typically take to see results from using PEMF for pain relief?
The amount of time it takes to see results from using PEMF (Pulsed Electromagnetic Field therapy) for pain relief varies from person to person. It depends on several factors, such as the type and severity of the pain, the frequency and duration of the PEMF therapy, and the individual’s response to the treatment.
Patients are recommended to do cycles of 45-90 days with a minimum duration of 3 hours unless the doctor advises otherwise.
Can PEMF be used in conjunction with other pain management methods?
Yes, PEMF (Pulsed Electromagnetic Field therapy) can be used in conjunction with other pain management methods. Many people find that combining PEMF therapy with other treatments, such as physical therapy, massage, chiropractic care, or medication, can help enhance the overall effectiveness of their pain management plan.
However, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional before starting any new treatment, including PEMF therapy, to ensure it is safe and appropriate for you.
Are there any conditions or situations in which PEMF should not be used for pain management?
PEMF (Pulsed Electromagnetic Field therapy) is generally considered safe and well-tolerated by most people, but there are some conditions or situations in which its use is not recommended. For example, tuberculosis, pregnancy, malignancy, cardiac pacemaker or any implanted electrical device, atrophic skin or scar tissue on the knee region, bleeding disorders, insensitivity, edema, and more (2).
How much does PEMF treatment for pain typically cost?
The cost of PEMF treatment for pain can vary widely depending on several factors, such as the type of device used, the provider offering the treatment, and the location of the treatment. Some PEMF devices can be purchased for personal use and range in price from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.
On the other hand, PEMF treatments provided by healthcare professionals in a clinic or medical office may cost anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars per session, depending on the provider and location. Some insurance plans may cover PEMF therapy, but this varies greatly depending on the individual’s insurance plan and the type of treatment required.
Will I feel any pain during the treatment?
PEMF is generally a painless and non-invasive form of treatment. Most people do not experience any pain during PEMF therapy, as the pulsed electromagnetic fields are gentle and do not cause any physical sensation.
Some people may feel a slight warming or tingling sensation during treatment, but this is typically mild and well-tolerated.
Pulsed Electromagnetic Field (PEMF) therapy is a type of therapy that uses low-frequency electromagnetic fields to improve health and relieve pain. PEMF therapy is thought to work by stimulating cells and tissues to promote healing and reduce inflammation.
PEMF therapy has been used for various conditions such as chronic pain, osteoarthritis, depression, anxiety, wound healing, and more. However, the evidence for its effectiveness varies, and more research is needed to understand its benefits and risks.
There are many options for PEMF therapy. You can choose from mat devices that cover larger areas of your body or handheld devices that target specific areas. Some devices are designed for home use, while others are perfect in clinical settings. It is important to note that not all PEMF devices are created equal, and it is essential to choose a reputable device that is FDA-approved.
It’s important to consult with a healthcare provider before starting PEMF therapy, especially if you have a medical condition or are taking medication. They can help determine if PEMF therapy is safe and effective for your specific needs.
- RH;, Funk. “Coupling of Pulsed Electromagnetic Fields (PEMF) Therapy to Molecular Grounds of the Cell.” American Journal of Translational Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29887943/.
- Külcü, Duygu Geler, et al. “Short-Term Efficacy of Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy on Pain and Functional Level in Knee Osteoarthritis: A Randomized Controlled Study.” Archives of Rheumatology, Turkish League Against Rheumatism, 1 Jan. 1970, https://archivesofrheumatology.org/full-text/311#:~:text=contraindications%20for%20PEMF%20and%20US,%2C%20edema%20and%20ischemia%2C%203.
- Foley-Nolan D;Moore K;Codd M;Barry C;O’Connor P;Coughlan RJ; “Low Energy High Frequency Pulsed Electromagnetic Therapy for Acute Whiplash Injuries. A Double Blind Randomized Controlled Study.” Scandinavian Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine, U.S. National Library of Medicine, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1604262/.
- Thamsborg G;Florescu A;Oturai P;Fallentin E;Tritsaris K;Dissing S; “Treatment of Knee Osteoarthritis with Pulsed Electromagnetic Fields: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study.” Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, U.S. National Library of Medicine, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15979009/.
- Yang X;He H;Ye W;Perry TA;He C; “Effects of Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy on Pain, Stiffness, Physical Function, and Quality of Life in Patients with Osteoarthritis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trials.” Physical Therapy, U.S. National Library of Medicine, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32251502/.
- Vadalà, Maria, et al. “Mechanisms and Therapeutic Effectiveness of Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy in Oncology.” Cancer Medicine, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Nov. 2016, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5119968/.
- Shealy, C. N., MD PhD, & Dabfm, S. S. M. (2019, September 27). Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy: Innovative Treatment for Diabetic Neuropathy. https://www.practicalpainmanagement.com/treatments/interventional/stimulators/pulsed-electromagnetic-field-therapy-innovative-treatment
- Goodwin, T. J. (2003, September 1). Physiological and Molecular Genetic Effects of Time-Varying Electromagnetic Fields on Human Neuronal Cells. NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS). https://ntrs.nasa.gov/citations/20030075722
- Hattapoğlu, E., Batmaz, İ., Dilek, B., Karakoç, M., Em, S., & Çevik, R. (2019). Efficiency of pulsed electromagnetic fields on pain, disability, anxiety, depression, and quality of life in patients with cervical disc herniation: a randomized controlled study. Turkish Journal of Medical Sciences, 49(4), 1095–1101. https://doi.org/10.3906/sag-1901-65
- Xiaotian, Y., He, H., Ye, W., Perry, T., & He, C. (2020). Effects of Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy on Pain, Stiffness, Physical Function, and Quality of Life in Patients With Osteoarthritis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trials. Physical Therapy, 100(7), 1118–1131. https://doi.org/10.1093/ptj/pzaa054