PEMF therapy for depression and anxiety is a novel anti-depression treatment as per available clinical research studies and trials. Let us learn more about depression and see how PEMF therapy works for treating depression and anxiety. Discover the available clinical data that supports the use of PEMFs for improving brain health and treating mental health disorders including depression and anxiety.
Depression & Need for Complementary Non-Invasive Treatment
Anxiety and depression are a major health problem that affects millions of Americans and possibly billions of people worldwide. According to CDC, in the United States, 4.7% of adults have regular depression resulting in about 47,000 suicides each year.
Mental health disorders come in many flavors including bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, premenstrual disorder, medication/substance-induced depressive disorder and persistent depressive disorders among many others.
There are many dimensions to causes and treatments of mental health issues. Several mental wellness issues originate from lack of sleep, stressful environment, genetic disorders and chemical imbalances in the brain. While having low neurotransmitters and serotonin levels are long known to play a role in depression, it is also now clear that neurodegeneration or reduced ability to regenerate neurons is also a factor that causes major depressive disorder. PEMF therapy has been found to address many of these brain health conditions.
Some psychiatrists may need to prescribe anti-depression medication such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). However as per latest news report from Harvard points at the associated risks involved with the use of such medication.
Therefore, it is natural to assume, that a much more integrative and holistic approach be applied for depression and anxiety treatment. PEMF therapy is a great candidate as complementary treatment as it is a drug-free and non-invasive anti-depression technology without the usual side-effects and risks involved with drugs.
Does PEMF therapy help depression?
PEMF has been under active research from more than 60 years. To learn how PEMF therapy helps depression and the level of effectiveness, it’s pertinent to identify the root cause of various depressive disorders and then research the effects of pulsed electromagnetic fields on these conditions.
Some of the causes of major depressive disorders include neuroinflammation, unbalanced hormones, genes, stress, trauma, cancer and hypothyroidism. So we can see that depression can be symptom to many other health conditions. Also there is evidence piling that shows a direct link between – impaired blood flow1 and hypoxia (deficiency of oxygen) in the brain – and – mood disorders including anxiety and depression. There is also research that points to higher depression in those with chronic hypoxic conditions such as COPD, heart disease and stroke.2 Therefore, these conditions, i.e., blood flow and oxygenation must be addressed for depression to heal.
Effects of PEMF therapy on brain
PEMF therapy has been found to be highly effective for a variety of brain disorders including Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s as well as depression, stress and anxiety. PEMF (Pulsed electromagnetic field) therapy utilizes frequency modulated electromagnetic fields for brain stimulation. The reason why PEMF works so well is that it is able to improve cellular oxygenation. This effect of PEMF helps in depression treatment and also has the potential to treat the entire body using full-body PEMF mat.
Nitric oxide (NO) is an important molecule that is produced by almost all cells in the body. It helps in vasodilation or keeping the blood vessels supple and strong. In 2018, scientists from Institute of Anatomy, Germany conducted a study to investigate the cellular mechanism of PEMF and found that PEMF can trigger voltage-gated calcium channels and may help in production of nitric oxide. They concluded that used correctly PEMF can ultimately lead to reduced inflammation and improve cellular resilience.3
When cellular dysfunction occurs, Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) also known as free radicals thrive and can lead to cancer and many other conditions and symptoms including depression. PEMF therapy has been found and is commonly accepted to be an effective technology to modulate ROS production and thereby enhance cellular energy levels. 4
In a research review by scientists from University of Groningen, Netherlands, it was concluded that low-intensity pulsed electromagnetic fields have anti-depressant effects due to its effects on local brain activity and connectivity.5
Angiogenesis is another effect that PEMF therapy can have. In a research review published in Bioelectromagnetics Society Journal in 2021, PEMF was found to improve angiogenesis – regeneration of blood vessels.6
Benefits of PEMF therapy for depressive disorders
Let us now learn about the benefits of PEMF for depression and anxiety disorders based on published clinical trials.
In a double-blind pilot study utilizing low field magnetic stimulation which is nothing but a PEMF field surrounding the brain at an intensity lesser than 30 Gauss, it was concluded that such brain stimulation can have mood-enhancing effects for treatment-resistant depression.7
In a comparative study of brain stimulation technologies including electroconvulsive therapy, transcranial magnetic stimulation, thera burst, transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), it was concluded that these non-invasive brain stimulation therapies can be considered as alternative treaments for adults with major depressive disorders.8
In a 12-week clinical trial of PEMF therapy for treating depression, pain, anxiety and quality of life in cervical disc herniation patients, it was found that PEMF can be safely used and provided significant improvements over treatments such as TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) and Hot Pack (HP) therapies in a longer timeframe.9
The results are not very surprising for us as found PEMF to be much superior to TENS, microcurrents and electrical stimulation long ago. One of the primary reasons is that none of the other treatments really address the brain or the whole-body like PEMF can.
Clinical trials on PEMFs for mental health
In 2013, a study examined the effects of PEMF for anxiety and applied 2 Gauss for 9 minutes. This initial pilot study suggested that PEMF may be applied for anxiety and further investigation was recommended.10
It’s encouraging to now see psychologists experiment with PEMF and try to solve problems arising out of brain injuries. In this study from Laurentian University, Canada, it was found that even a very weak PEMF of 1 microT was able to provide benefits.11
Considering that a PEMF field intensity falls rapidly due to the inverse-square law, it’s safe to assume that when a PEMF mat system is used, you would receive low-intensity pulsed electromagnetic fields to the deepest regions of the brain.
Benefits of PEMF for depression are in fact so well known that researchers have also conducted a study for treating multiple chemical sensitivity which is one condition with currently no successful pharmacological treatment.12
In 2020, another trial to study the effect of pulsed electromagnetic frequency therapy on quality of life of military members with back pain was conducted in Texas. The researchers recommend PEMF for further investigation as they found surprising improvements in this 75 member study.13
Individual brain health conditions, metabolism and immunity would determine how effective PEMF is and how long it should be used for finding improvement. In many cases, benefits of PEMF may only be noticed or fully enjoyed with longer term use.
For example, in a study from Denmark, scientists did a 2-year follow-up study on depression patients with and without co-morbid conditions and apathies such as sleep disorders and stressful environments. They found that patients with apathies had to use twice as much PEMF for similar results. It was also advised that lifestyle changes pertaining to addiction treatment and social problems should also be addressed for best outcomes.14
From this study, the take-away is not just that PEMF is dose dependent, but also to do with what an individual does to implement positive behaviors. PEMF for depression or anxiety should ideally be coupled with an improvement in the social and physical lifestyle of users. So don’t forget to workout, play sports, practice yoga, meditate or simply run each morning. Also nutrition should be addressed, the cells need protein and other vital ingredients for recuperation and proliferation.
PEMF can help your physical balance too! In a 2001 study utilizing 2 Gauss PEMF, scientists from Canada analysed that PEMF can significantly improve standing balance or center of pressure, with eyes open or closed.15
That is perhaps why we find sports and yoga practice to improve along with PEMF use.
Don’t forget that PEMF enhances energy levels too. If you find benefits with PEMF for depression, you will most certainly feel a surge in energy levels upon waking in the morning. This “push” must be utilized!
PEMF therapy for depression research references
- 1.Bonne O, Krausz Y, Shapira B, et al. Increased cerebral blood flow in depressed patients responding to electroconvulsive therapy. J Nucl Med. 1996;37(7):1075-1080. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8965172
- 2.Zhao F, Yang J, Cui R. Effect of Hypoxic Injury in Mood Disorder. Neural Plasticity. Published online 2017:1-10. doi:10.1155/2017/6986983
- 3.Funk R. Coupling of pulsed electromagnetic fields (PEMF) therapy to molecular grounds of the cell. Am J Transl Res. 2018;10(5):1260-1272. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29887943
- 4.Pooam M, Jourdan N, El E, Sherrard R, Ahmad M. HEK293 cell response to static magnetic fields via the radical pair mechanism may explain therapeutic effects of pulsed electromagnetic fields. PLoS One. 2020;15(12):e0243038. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0243038
- 5.van Belkum SM, Bosker FJ, Kortekaas R, Beersma DGM, Schoevers RA. Treatment of depression with low-strength transcranial pulsed electromagnetic fields: A mechanistic point of view. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry. Published online November 2016:137-143. doi:10.1016/j.pnpbp.2016.07.006
- 6.Peng L, Fu C, Wang L, et al. The Effect of Pulsed Electromagnetic Fields on Angiogenesis. Bioelectromagnetics. 2021;42(3):250-258. doi:10.1002/bem.22330
- 7.Dubin M, Ilieva I, Deng Z, et al. A double-blind pilot dosing study of low field magnetic stimulation (LFMS) for treatment-resistant depression (TRD). J Affect Disord. 2019;249:286-293. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2019.02.039
- 8.Mutz J, Vipulananthan V, Carter B, Hurlemann R, Fu C, Young A. Comparative efficacy and acceptability of non-surgical brain stimulation for the acute treatment of major depressive episodes in adults: systematic review and network meta-analysis. BMJ. 2019;364:l1079. doi:10.1136/bmj.l1079
- 9.Hattapoğlu E, Batmaz İ, Dilek B, Karakoç M, Em S, Çevik R. Efficiency of pulsed electromagnetic fields on pain, disability, anxiety, depression, and quality of life in patients with cervical disc herniation: a randomized controlled study. Turk J Med Sci. 2019;49(4):1095-1101. doi:10.3906/sag-1901-65
- 10.Amirifalah Z, Firoozabadi S, Shafiei S. Local exposure of brain central areas to a pulsed ELF magnetic field for a purposeful change in EEG. Clin EEG Neurosci. 2013;44(1):44-52. doi:10.1177/1550059412460164
- 11.Baker-Price L, Persinger M. Weak, but complex pulsed magnetic fields may reduce depression following traumatic brain injury. Percept Mot Skills. 1996;83(2):491-498. doi:10.2466/pms.19220.127.116.111
- 12.Tran M, Skovbjerg S, Arendt-Nielsen L, Bech P, Lunde M, Elberling J. Two of three patients with multiple chemical sensitivity had less symptoms and secondary hyperalgesia after transcranially applied pulsed electromagnetic fields. Scand J Pain. 2014;5(2):104-109. doi:10.1016/j.sjpain.2013.11.008
- 13.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
- 14.Bech P, Lindberg L, Straasø B, Larsen E. A 2-year follow-up study of patients participating in our transcranial pulsating electromagnetic fields augmentation in treatment-resistant depression. Acta Neuropsychiatr. 2015;27(2):119-125. doi:10.1017/neu.2014.44
- 15.Thomas A, Drost D, Prato F. Human subjects exposed to a specific pulsed (200 microT) magnetic field: effects on normal standing balance. Neurosci Lett. 2001;297(2):121-124. doi:10.1016/s0304-3940(00)01688-8