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8 Articles in Volume 16, Issue #3
CDC Issues Final Guidelines for Opioid Prescribing: PPM Editorial Board Responds
Don't Flinch From Prescribing Pain Medications!
Help Patients Achieve Diet/Weight Goals to Manage Pain
Hormone Testing and Replacement: Status Report 2016
Living With, and Managing, Chronic Pain: A Patient’s Story
Nerve Decompression Surgery Can Reverse Neuropathy of the Foot
Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy: Innovative Treatment for Diabetic Neuropathy
Specialized Pharmacies Step Into Risk-Management Role

Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy: Innovative Treatment for Diabetic Neuropathy

PEMF reduced pain intensity and sensation scores in a small trial of patients with diabetic neuropathy.

The incidence of type 2 diabetes has increased strikingly in the last several decades. Accompanying this development has been an increase in the incidence of diabetic neuropathy, leading to progressive pain, loss of sensation (primarily in the feet), weakness, and disability. Conventional therapy has consisted largely of attempts to control the diabetes and to moderate the pain.

Pulsed Electromagnetic Field (PEMF) therapy is a safe, and non-invasive way to reduce pain and inflammation. It can be used to supplement and enhance currently existing healthcare modalities. The PEMF apparatus includes various devices including full body mats, localized pad applicators, and pinpointed probe or “spot” applicators.

PEMF can be thought of as a whole-body (100 trillion cells) battery recharger. According to Bryant A. Meyers, author of PEMF – The Fifth Element of Health, PEMF works by “improving adenosine triphosphate [ATP] production, increasing oxygenation, enhancing circulation, promoting hydration, facilitating detoxification,” and gaining a better overall absorption of nutrients.1

Electromagnetic energy can be directed to help patients heal.

How it Works

PEMF uses healthy electromagnetic frequencies, as opposed to cell phone frequencies, to enhance overall health and wellness. Every cell in the body has a negative charge on the cell wall. For nerve cells, this is approximately -60 mV; other cells may vary in the net negative charge. To maintain healthy levels of this negative charge, potassium and magnesium should be contained inside the cells, while calcium and sodium ideally remain outside the cells.

Obviously, there are scores of fundamentals—vitamins, minerals, hormones—that must be maintained at an optimal level for cell health. The pH of the blood, normally 7.4, is, of course, essential, as are significant excesses or deficiencies of nutrients; and numerous toxins must also be kept at bay. While all these factors play an important role in cell health, the electrical health of cells is one of the most critical of all the vital elements.

Starting in the 1960’s, the author (CNS) introduced the concept of stimulating parts of the body—brain, nerve, spinal cord, or skin—to control pain.2 The most widely used of these techniques is Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) or electroacupuncture. For TENS, frequencies of 1 to 100 Hz are used. For cranial stimulation, up to 15,000 Hz is optimal. The Liss CES, now sold as the Fisher-Wallace, emits 15,000 Hz, 500 Hz, and 15 Hz. The Alpha-Stim puts out up to 12,000 Hz.

In 1994 Dr. Shealy began working with human DNA frequencies when he studied Microwave Resonance Frequency in the Ukraine. Physicians there had discovered that DNA resonates at 52 to 78 GHz at one billionth of a watt per cm square. They had used these frequencies and intensities to treat over 250,000 patients. Such frequencies are produced with a Tesla coil at very high voltage through a spark gap.

The first reported use of such frequencies in the US was for restoration of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) in patients with diabetic neuropathy.3 Since then, the author has applied these frequencies to specific acupuncture circuits to raise DHEA, oxytocin, neurotensin, and calcitonin or to normalize aldosterone and lower free radical production. In addition, Dr. Shealy reported significant telomere regeneration of 3% to 4% annually using total body PEMF at the Giga frequencies.4

These frequencies are significantly more powerful than the low frequencies used by TENS, but are used only from 30 to 60 minutes daily. In addition to stronger activation of acupuncture points, such daily use has been demonstrated to assist in rejuvenating telomeres, the tips of our DNA that ordinarily, even with good health habits, shrink 1% every year. Giga frequencies should be used only a maximum of 1 hour per day and are contraindicated when there is any implanted electronic device, such as pacemaker, or during pregnancy.

PEMF primarily uses frequencies in the range of 1 to 100 Hz at very low intensities of microTesla. Permanent magnets usually range up to 4.5 Tesla.

1 tesla is equivalent to:

  • 10,000 (or 104) G (gauss)
  • 1000 nT (nanotesla) = 1 µT (microtesla) = 10 mG (milligauss)
  • 1,000,000 µT = 1 T

One microTesla is 0.01 gauss and 1 Tesla is therefore 1 million microTesla.

PEMF significantly increases circulation and has a wide variety of health benefits. Therapy may last 30 minutes to several hours a day, and may be directed at specific areas or to the entire body. As noted, the only contraindications are pregnancy and individuals with an implanted pacemaker or electrical device.

Benefits for Diabetic Neuropathy

Neuropathic pain, and specifically peripheral neuropathy, arises from ectopic firing of unmyelinated C-fibers with accumulation of sodium and calcium channels.5 Because PEMF safely induces low frequency currents that can depolarize, repolarize, and hyperpolarize neurons, it has been hypothesized that directing this energy into the sole of one foot could potentially modulate neuropathic pain.

In 2003, Musaev et al conducted a study involving 121 patients with diabetic polyneuropathy (DPN) before and after courses of treatment with PEMF with complex modulation (PEMF-CM) at different frequencies (10-100 Hz).6

The authors discovered that the “earliest and most significant electroneuromyographic signs of DPN were decreases in the amplitude of the H reflex and the Hmax/Mmax ratio in the muscles of the lower leg.” After treatment with PEMF-CM, the authors reported “regression of the main clinical symptoms of DPN, improvement in the conductive function of peripheral nerves, improvement in the state of afferent neurons, and improvement in the reflex excitability of functionally diverse motor neurons in the spinal cord.” The researchers concluded that PEMF-CM at 10 Hz had therapeutic efficacy, especially in the initial stages of DPN and in patients who have had diabetes mellitus for up to 10 years.6

In 2004, Weintraum and Cole conducted a pilot study to find out whether 9 consecutive 1-hour treatments in a physician’s office (excluding weekends) of PEMF can reduce neuropathic pain scores in refractory feet in people with peripheral neuropathy.5 The study included 24 patients with refractory and sympathetic polyneuropathy of various etiologies, including diabetes. Only the most painful foot received the 9 hours of treatment, and pain was measured by visual analog scale (VAS) before, immediately after, and 30 days following therapy.

The authors found that mean pain scores decreased by 21% from baseline to end of treatment (P=0.19) and by 49% from baseline to end of follow-up (P<0.01). Of the 19 feet with moderate to severe pain, there was a 28% reduction in VAS from baseline to end of treatment (P<0.05) and a 39% decrease from baseline to end of follow-up (P<0.01). The authors concluded that “directing PEMF to refractory neuropathic feet can provide short-term analgesic effects in more than 50% of individuals.”5

After the promising results of the pilot study, the researchers expanded their study. In 2009, they published the results of a multi-center randomized, double-blind study that included 225 patients with stage II or III diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN). Patients were randomly assigned to use identical devices generating PEMF or sham (placebo) to feet for 2 hours a day for 3 months.7

Approximately 14% of patients dropped out of the study before the 3-month mark. Of the remaining patients, there was a trend toward reductions in DPN symptoms on the Patient’s Global Impression of Change (PGIC) scale, favoring the PEMF group (44% vs 31%; P=0.04). There were no significant differences between PEMF and sham groups in the neuropathic pain intensity on VAS or Neuropathy Pain Scale (NPS), however.

To measure whether PEMF has any influence on nerve regeneration, 27 patients completed serial 3-mm punch skin biopsies for epidermal nerve fiber density (ENFD) testing. Of the PEMF patients, 29% had an increase in distal leg ENFD of at least 0.5 SDs, while none of the sham patients had a change in ENFD (P=0.04). Increases in distal thigh ENFD were significantly correlated with decreases in pain scores. The researchers noted that they are planning to examine PEMF at higher dosimetry (3000-5000 G) and for longer duration of exposure.7

Study of PEMF for DPN

Our introduction to PEMF occurred while conducting a study of its effect on diabetic neuropathy.8 In our study, which was presented at the 2014 meeting of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, 15 adults (aged 41 to 79)—all of whom had significant diabetic neuropathy with pain and sensory loss—were enrolled. We demonstrated that PEMF significantly increased foot temperature, which led us to use it on the chest, where it raised temperature 6 degrees, suggesting significant improvement in circulation of the heart.

In the study, patients were treated once a week with a newly designed coil developed by Medical Energetics Limited, an Irish research company. The coil is an investigative device at present and is not commercially available. The Mark II coil has output intensities of less than 100 mG. It was applied for 15 minutes to the feet and 15 minutes to the neck and chest. Each patient was treated weekly for 8 weeks. In addition, patients monitored their blood sugar three times daily. Baseline Hemoglobin A1c and urinary free radical testing for malondialdehyde were done and were repeated at 4 and 8 weeks.

At the end of the study, we reported that pain scores (1-10 scale) were reduced by 52%, from 5.2 to 2.5, and sensory loss improved by 65.8%, from -76.3% to -26.2%.8 In addition, touch sensation improved by 65%, from -84% to -15.6%. Vibratory sensation also improved by 43%, from -68.5 to -39% (Table 1).

Following these results, a modification of the coil output was studied in another 15 adults with diabetic neuropathy. They were treated with 30 minutes to the feet and 15 minutes to the neck and chest. Spontaneous pain decreased 46.5%; pin sensation improved to 83% of normal; touch improved to 66% of normal; and vibration improved to 32% of normal.

In both studies patients monitored their blood sugars daily. No significant changes were found in any of these additional tests. Of course, A1c represents an average of blood sugars over the previous 12 weeks, so a significant change would not be expected.

The quite significant improvement in pain and in neurological function is encouraging. Obviously, much longer treatment programs are needed to determine whether complete resolution of the diabetic neuropathy can be achieved.

Other Areas of Research

Since publishing our study, we have explored the potential for using 5.5 Hz to 58.5 Hz pulses at 10 microTesla intensity. We have found this combination very useful in working with a variety of pain problems. PEMF has been shown to speed healing of cervical spine surgical fusions.

In a case report by Mackenzie and Veninga et al, a patient with a C6-C7 nonunion wore a PEMF stimulation device for 3 hours per day for 10 months. After 3 months of treatment, the patient’s symptoms were resolved. X-rays obtained after 15 weeks of stimulation showed improvement in bone fusion, and x-rays obtained at 31 weeks after stimulation showed even bone density around the C7 screws. The patient remained symptom-free 13 months after the termination of PEMF stimulation at last assessment.9

PEMF has been found to provide good improvement in patients with osteoarthritis.10-13 In a meta-analysis by Vavken et al, PEMF was found to improve clinical scores and function in patients with osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee in 9 studies including 483 patients. The authors concluded that PEMF should be considered as an adjuvant therapy in the management of knee osteoarthritis.10

More recently, Bagnato et al studied the use of a wearable PEMF device in the management of pain in knee OA patients. The trial consisted of 12-hour daily treatment for 1 month in 60 patients with OA of the knee. After 1 month, PEMF induced a significant reduction in VAS pain and WOMAC scores compared with placebo. Additionally, pain tolerance, as expressed by pressure pain threshold (PPT), and overall physical health improved in PEMF-treated patients. Twenty-six percent of patients in the PEMF group stopped non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and analgesic therapy. No adverse events were detected.11

Another wearable PEMF device was studied by Wuschech et al. Results of this randomized double-blind study show clinically that use of PEMF (varying in frequency between 4 and 12 Hz; 1 cm tissue depth, magnetic flux density 105 µT) leads to significantly better results in the treatment group compared to the placebo group with regard to the total WOMAC global score and especially for VAS. Patient assessment of the “effectiveness” was rated in 29.5% as “very good” and “good” in 27.3% compared to 0.0% and 15.4% in controls.12

PEMF therapy has been used successfully in the management of postsurgical pain and edema, the treatment of chronic wounds, and in facilitating vasodilatation and angiogenesis.14 Moreover, there are a number of studies suggesting the possibility of improved outcomes in cancer.15,16 And as seen with DPN, PEMF has been effective in enhancing nerve regeneration both in vitro and in vivo.17

One of the most important effects of PEMF is reduction of inflammation18 and low back pain.19 In a study conducted in Nigeria, 16 patients with back pain (without radiculopathy) were enrolled. Patients were randomly assigned into 2 groups: Group 1 was treated with PEMF plus medications (analgesics, diclofenac); group 2 was treated with only standard medications. The PEMF device was applied 4 times a day for a maximum of 9 days. In the 8 patients receiving PEMF, there was a statistically significant faster pain relief and resumption of normal functions compared with patients treated with standard analgesics alone. These results suggest that PEMF therapy is beneficial in reducing pain and disability in patients with back pain.19

In patients with low back pain with radiculopathy, PEMF therapy has been found to be an effective, conservative treatment of lumbar radiculopathy caused by lumbar disc prolapse. In the study, 40 patients with lumbar disc prolapse were randomly assigned into 2 groups: Group 1 received PEMF therapy and group 2 received placebo treatment. In addition to improvement of clinically observed radicular symptoms, the authors reported that PEMF also seemed effective in reducing nerve root compression as evidenced by improvement of somatosensory evoked potentials (SSEPs) for selected dermatomes’ parameters after treatment.20

PEMF is even useful in failed back surgery.21 In a study by Harper et al, PEMF was administered twice daily over a 45-day period in 34 subjects (68% female) with persistent or recurrent pain following back surgery. Of the 30 per-protocol subjects who completed the study, 33% reported a clinically meaningful (≥30%) reduction in pain intensity. A higher response rate (60%) was reported for subjects who had undergone discectomy prior to the trial compared to subjects who had undergone other types of surgical interventions (decompression or fusion) without discectomy. The authors noted that relative to baseline, responders reported an average 44% and 55% reduction in back and leg pain intensity, respectively, and an average 13% improvement in Oswestry Disability Index scores.21

Last, but certainly not least, the potential benefit of PEMF in improving pelvic pain22 and cardiac function after myocardial infarction23 are perhaps two of the most exciting possibilities to be explored further.


PEMF therapy is a safe and non-invasive tool to improve health. It stimulates and duplicates the earth’s natural electromagnetic frequencies and functions essentially as a recharger of the body’s electrical battery.

The most important benefits are: increased energy and circulation; reduced muscle spasms; improved sleep; enhanced healing of bone fractures; and reduction of pain and inflammation. According to Bryant A. Meyers, “the body is self-healing, self-regulating, and self-regenerating.” PEMF therapy essentially helps provide the energy needed to do this.

Last updated on: September 27, 2019
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Nerve Decompression Surgery Can Reverse Neuropathy of the Foot

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