Pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) therapy for stroke rehabilitation has been clinically researched and can potentially improve outcomes and support neurorehabilitation. PEMF therapy benefits post-stroke recovery and can also be considered for stroke prevention due to its neuroprotective effects.
The CDC reports that stroke kills about 140,000 Americans each year, 1 in every 20. In United Kingdom, the problem is getting worst. A recent article published on Oxford Academic claims that the number of strokes in UK is set to increase by 60% every year and the stroke rehabilitation costs could go up by 250% in the next 15 years. Therefore, it is imperative to the further the research of adjunct treatments which could reduce stroke occurrence as well as improve stroke rehab outcomes. PEMF therapy being a safe, non-invasive and drug-free treatment can certainly be a great candidate for more widespread use in neurorehabilitation.
NIH’s The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke explains that a stroke occurs when blood vessels in and around the brain are interrupted or burst. There are two forms of stroke, ischemic and hemorrhagic. Ishemic stroke occurs due to decapitated blood vessels supplying the brain. Hemorrhagic strokes occur due to cerebral AVMs (Arteriovenous Malformations). We can see it’s a blood circulation problem due to weakened blood vessel tissues resulting in damage to brain cells. It is also a genetic disorder as evident from the fact that twice as many blacks get stroke as whites. Besides cerebral AVMs are congenital, i.e, someone is born with the condition.
Multiple strokes can be particularly hard to survive, therefore it makes absolute sense to have a strong recovery and maintenance toolbox.
PEMF therapy can potentially benefit these conditions and also provide some protection as it boosts neurological health on the tissue and cellular level. By studying the current research on PEMF therapy for stroke rehabilitation, neurologists, physiotherapists and rehabilitation caregivers can meaningfully integrate PEMF therapy and improve the stroke rehab process and recovery outcomes.
Let us review the available research on the effects of applying PEMFs for stroke.
Clinical studies on PEMF for stroke recovery
As with most treatment modalities with a huge potential, PEMF therapy has been studied in animals and humans. Animal studies have found PEMF therapy to have neuroprotective effects1 and a viable treatment option for acute stroke2. This shows that there is a potential for utilizing PEMF for stroke rehabilitation treatment and prevention as well.
In 2012 Italian scientists conducted a randomized clinical trial and studied the effects of PEMF & physiotherapy applied to the brain in chronic post-stroke patients3. They found that such therapy indeed has a valid and promising approach to boost neuroplasticity. They found improvements in dexterity and strength of affected limbs. PEMF applied before and after speech, memory or physiotherapy exercises can improve the results.
A meta-analyses of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) studies using strong PEMFs applied to the brain finds beneficial recovery in functional mobility4. In TMS, the pulsed magnetic field stimulation is shorter, more stronger and to a smaller part of the brain. With PEMF being a newer technology, the stimulation is generally milder and can be applied for longer periods and in the comfort of home.
PEMF boosts Neuroplasticity
As per a recent clinical trial, PEMF boosts cytokines and growth factors responsible for neuroplasticity and boosts functional recovery of post-stroke patients5.
A healthy brain is constantly rewiring itself to store information and process biological responses. This ability of the brain cells to reorganize themselves to change neural connections is known as neuroplasticity. Stroke patients have damaged neuroplasticity resulting in impaired speech, memory, thinking ability and mobility. Stroke rehabilitation treatments include memory games, physiotherapy exercises and speech therapy. It’s indeed a difficult period for stroke survivors as they have to re-learn many things that a child would. Therefore, it’s important that neuroplasticity be improved so stroke recovery can happen.
The role PEMF can play for stroke rehab is immense as it boosts cellular oxygenation6, kick-starting neural cells’ ability to repair themselves and recover function. PEMF potentially reduces chances of plaque in the blood vessels that can lead to strokes.
Looking at reviews and feedback, the beneficial effects of PEMFs should be visible within the first week of medium-intensity PEMF application. As per doctors, PEMF application can safely be started after the bleeding has completely stopped.
PEMF therapy can be an effective adjunct treatment to improve stroke recovery outcomes and the quality of life of stroke survivors. PEMF application can reduce inflammation in the blood vessels, stimulating circulation and microcirculation. More clinical trials seem like the natural next step for further optimizing the dosage and delivery of PEMF therapy for stroke rehabilitation and stroke prevention.
Further reading includes research on PEMF therapy for depression and other senior health issues such as arthritis, osteoporosis, BPH, cancer, etc. There have been hundreds of trials and thousands of studies on PEMF. And it’s easy to see why PEMF is a universal supplement to remarkably improve well-being in way that wasn’t possible a century ago. Although we do have more biological stress factors such as lifestyle and pollution that affects us.
PEMFs for Stroke Rehabilitation Citations
- 1.Urnukhsaikhan E, Mishig-Ochir T, Kim S, Park J, Seo Y. Neuroprotective Effect of Low Frequency-Pulsed Electromagnetic Fields in Ischemic Stroke. Appl Biochem Biotechnol. 2017;181(4):1360-1371. doi:10.1007/s12010-016-2289-z
- 2.Grant G, Cadossi R, Steinberg G. Protection against focal cerebral ischemia following exposure to a pulsed electromagnetic field. Bioelectromagnetics. 1994;15(3):205-216. doi:10.1002/bem.2250150305
- 3.Avenanti A, Coccia M, Ladavas E, Provinciali L, Ceravolo M. Low-frequency rTMS promotes use-dependent motor plasticity in chronic stroke: a randomized trial. Neurology. 2012;78(4):256-264. doi:10.1212/WNL.0b013e3182436558
- 4.Kubis N. Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation to Enhance Post-Stroke Recovery. Front Neural Circuits. 2016;10:56. doi:10.3389/fncir.2016.00056
- 5.Cichoń N, Bijak M, Czarny P, et al. Increase in Blood Levels of Growth Factors Involved in the Neuroplasticity Process by Using an Extremely Low Frequency Electromagnetic Field in Post-stroke Patients. Front Aging Neurosci. 2018;10:294. doi:10.3389/fnagi.2018.00294
- 6.Ehnert S, Fentz A, Schreiner A, et al. Extremely low frequency pulsed electromagnetic fields cause antioxidative defense mechanisms in human osteoblasts via induction of •O2– and H2O2. Sci Rep. 2017;7(1):14544. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-14983-9