Applying PEMF therapy for back pain is an effective, non-invasive and safe treatment option. Let us review the available clinical research that supports the use of Pulsed Electromagnetic Field (PEMF) therapy for acute and chronic back pain.
Why PEMF for back pain?
A quick glance at American Chiropractic Association’s Back pain facts and statistics shows that back pain is a serious problem that affects millions of people. So what are the conditions that cause back pain? Sciatica, Spinal degeneration, Spinal stenosis, Osteoporosis, Skeletal irregularities, Fibromyalgia, Spondylitis and Bulging spinal disc problems such as protruding, herniated, or ruptured discs cause majority of spine health issues.
PEMF therapy is an effective and comfortable pain solution compared to conventional back pain treatments such as hot and cold compresses, weeks of bed rest, physiotherapy exercises, drugs like analgesics, anesthetics, steroids or narcotics.
PEMF therapy supports approaches such as acupuncture, spinal manipulation, massage therapy and naturopathy pain treatments as it provides cellular regeneration effects that can greatly improve the outcomes. Therefore, professionals and home-users alike should certainly consider PEMF as a complementary or adjunct treatment for back pain.
How does PEMF therapy for back pain work?
Rather than provide symptomatic relief for back pain and indeed any bone, cartilage or connective tissue related pain condition, PEMF works on the mitochondrial level. Pain and inflammation occurs when mitochondrial dysfunction has occurred.
Vertebral column houses the spinal cord. There are a billion neurons in your spinal cord and it’s like an extension of your brain running through your spine. PEMF improves neuronal health, spine health improves resulting in better control of the body, posture, gait as well as reduction in back pain conditions.
In 2003, Thomas Goodwin’s PEMF therapy Research for NASA reported that PEMF therapy using a frequency of 10 Hz resulted in neural tissue regeneration four times faster. More than 175 maturation genes and 150 developmental genes revert from maturation to developmental (See pages 15-26).
PEMF doesn’t just reduce pain, it potentially works on the underlying cellular health resulting in pain relief. It can improve bone density, improve circulation and stimulate recovery. PEMF is indeed an effective wellness technology that enhances performance and rehabilitation.
Clinical Trials on PEMF therapy for Back Pain
In 2012, a randomized clinical trial evaluated patients using pulsed electromagnetic field therapy in the management of patients with discogenic lumbar radiculopathy and concluded, “PEMF therapy is an effective method for the conservative treatment of lumbar radiculopathy caused by lumbar disc prolapse. In addition to improvement of clinically observed radicular symptoms, PEMF also seems effective in reducing nerve root compression as evidenced by improvement of SSEP parameters after treatment.”1
In 2008, this randomized clinical trial with more than three hundred patients tested PEMF therapy for cervical fusion and found that it helped significantly.2
This 2016 research by five American scientists proved the genetic science with their study, “Pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) treatment reduces expression of genes associated with disc degeneration in human intervertebral disc cells.”3
In 2019, scientists from the Department of Physical Therapy for Musculoskeletal Disorders and its Surgery, Cairo University conducted a randomized controlled trial to study the effect of PEMF on back pain patients4. They studied the effects of a 50 Hz 20 Gauss pulsed electromagnetic field for 4 weeks and concluded that adding PEMF therapy to conventional physiotherapy protocols for back pain provides a superior clinical improvement in pain, functional mobility and lumbar range of motion.
A systematic review of RCTs by Portuguese and Spanish scientists on the effectiveness of pulsed electromagnetic field therapy in low back pain concluded that PEMF is indeed able to relieve pain and improve functionality.5
In 2017, Nursing Outlook, published a pilot study to determine the effectiveness of PEMF for chronic low back pain symptoms along with mental health and disability conditions6. They conducted this study on service members of the United States military as back pain is one of the most frequent complaints by service members and a holitic approach is needed to improve outcomes and productivity. They found that PEMF improved mental health, however they didn’t find significant improvement in back pain condition. It is unclear about the protocol applied, so its difficult to comment on this result.
How to apply PEMF therapy for Back Pain
If you’re reading this, you’re probably trying to find a solution for low-back pain or back pain. Owning a PEMF device is certainly worth it now as it’s become affordable and it goes beyond providing pain relief by safeguarding and enhancing the body’s natural immunity and regeneration abilities.
A PEMF mat would be the most obvious choice as it would allow targeting the entire spine with nutritious PEMFs. A wearable PEMF device can also be effective to a good extent, simply place the applicators where it hurts or use trigger points / meridians to stimulate circulation and boost natural recovery.
An ideal method to apply PEMF would be to apply it while you lie down flat on your back and rest for at least 30 minutes. Using it all night in your bed should also work great, especially when using lower intensity PEMF systems. Regular PEMF application provides the best results, it improves energy levels and reduces pain. Depending on the cause and severity of your back pain condition, you would need to apply the PEMF system accordingly.
PEMF therapy for back pain / spine health research studies
- 1.Omar A, Awadalla M, El-Latif M. Evaluation of pulsed electromagnetic field therapy in the management of patients with discogenic lumbar radiculopathy. Int J Rheum Dis. 2012;15(5):e101-8.
- 2.Foley K, Mroz T, Arnold P, et al. Randomized, prospective, and controlled clinical trial of pulsed electromagnetic field stimulation for cervical fusion. Spine J. 2008;8(3):436-442.
- 3.Miller S, Coughlin D, Waldorff E, Ryaby J, Lotz J. Pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) treatment reduces expression of genes associated with disc degeneration in human intervertebral disc cells. Spine J. 2016;16(6):770-776.
- 4.Elshiwi AM, Hamada HA, Mosaad D, Ragab IMA, Koura GM, Alrawaili SM. Effect of pulsed electromagnetic field on nonspecific low back pain patients: a randomized controlled trial. Brazilian Journal of Physical Therapy. Published online May 2019:244-249. doi:10.1016/j.bjpt.2018.08.004
- 5.Andrade R, Duarte H, Pereira R, et al. Pulsed electromagnetic field therapy effectiveness in low back pain: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Porto Biomedical Journal. Published online November 2016:156-163. doi:10.1016/j.pbj.2016.09.001
- 6.Nayback-Beebe A, Yoder L, Goff B, Arzola S, Weidlich C. The effect of pulsed electromagnetic frequency therapy on health-related quality of life in military service members with chronic low back pain. Nurs Outlook. 2017;65(5S):S26-S33. doi:10.1016/j.outlook.2017.07.012