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PEMF: The Safest Pain Killer


Pain is an inseparable part of life and necessary for alarming the person towards some abnormality in the body. However, if the pain lasts for the abnormally long duration, it loses its purpose and becomes a disease that’s needs to be treated. Pain killers with varying effectiveness are used to alleviate the pain. Mild pain killers (acetaminophen) do not provide effective pain relief, mostly. Whereas pain killers with higher effectiveness (NSAIDs, e.g. aspirin, diclofenac and Opioids e.g. morphine, fentanyl) produces serious side effects like gastric damage, kidney failure and respiratory depression.

Researchers are continually searching for alternative options that can treat pain without the need of medicines. Pulse electromagnetic field (PEMF) therapy is one such alternative, which has been studied widely in the last two decades. PEMF is an electrical device that generates electromagnetic waves, which can stimulate certain biochemical processes in the human body. It is believed that PEMF stimulates the synthesis of anti-inflammatory bio-chemicals and inhibits the activity of inflammatory and pain producing bio-chemicals.

PEMF and pain

There are many publications showing positive effects of PEMF on pain. Some important studies are described here briefly. Link of the actual article is also provided, if the reader wants to read the study in detail.

1. Migraine

In 1999, Sherman and colleagues have published the results of a double-blind, placebo-controlled study evaluating the effects of PEMF in migraine patients.

42 patients meeting the International Headache Society’s criteria for migraine were enrolled. All the patients were asked to fill the log of the frequency and severity of their migraine attack for 1 month before the treatment. After this period, 1 hour therapy of actual or placebo PEMF was given to their inner thigh for 5 days a week, for 2 weeks. Patients were instructed to maintain the log for 1 more month after PEMF therapy.

The results suggested that 73% of patients in the PEMF group experienced a decrease in headache compared to 50% in the placebo group. After this period of 1 month, 10 subjects of the PEMF group elected to receive actual PEMF treatment for additional 2 weeks. All the patients reported decreased headache. Similarly, 8 patients placebo group also elected to receive actual PEMF treatment and 75% of them reported decrease in headache.

The authors concluded that PEMF therapy for at least 3 weeks is an effective option for treatment of migraine.



2. Post-operative pain

Heden and Pilla have published the results of their research evaluating the effect of PEMF on pain after breast augmentation surgery in the year 2008.

42 females undergoing the breast augmentation procedure were divided in three groups. In addition to the regular treatment procedure, one group was treated with false (placebo) device at both the breasts; the second group was treated with one actual and one placebo device; whereas the third group was treated with active device on both the breasts for 7 days.

Patients receiving the PEMF therapy showed three times less pain at the site of application compared to placebo groups. Moreover, the decreased pain in the PEMF group has led to decreased consumption of pain killer, which may be beneficial to reduce the side effects.

The authors concluded that PEMF is an effective option in controlling postoperative pain and thereby reducing the side effects of painkillers.


PEMF: an alternative to painkillers?

PEMF has been shown to be helpful in healing damaged tissue and bone. However, chronic pain is generally the result of damage that cannot heal, eg: Arthritis. Cartilages (cushion found in the joint), once damaged cannot repair. Hence, PEMF cannot cure such disease, but it can reduce the pain intensity and may reduce the need of harmful pain killers. Thus, PEMF can help the patient to get effective pain relief without risking the damage of vital organs like gastric system, heart and kidney. Effective use of PEMF can make the pain management safer.

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