When it comes to “pain relieving products,” there is definitely no shortage.
Perhaps you’ve run across pitches on late night TV commercials, magazines, websites or email spam about the latest “miracle” pain relief device or medicinal product. Chances are, they either don’t work or don’t work as well as advertised.
When on any day an estimated 100 million people in this country are experiencing some kind of pain– low back, hip, knee, etc., it’s not surprising that you’ll see a lot of ads for pain relief. Pain tends to make people motivated to do something about it.
But what if there is such a device or product that works well enough that it should deserve your attention?
Then, I think it is definitely worth checking out. As you know, I am a big, big advocate of self-care: whenever it is possible to avoid invasive medical procedures, I say go for it. “Invasive” to me means putting a drug inside your body or breaking the integrity of your body (surgery). The statistics seem to indicate that traditional allopathic medical treatment for disease, especially chronic degenerative disease, is “hit or miss;” with missing happening more and more at an unacceptable rate.
Did you know that medical errors are the #3 cause of death in the U.S., according to statistics? Adverse reactions to drugs and surgical interventions are responsible for prematurely ending the life of the recipient in way too many cases.
Given this reality, I say do all you can to treat pain or other disease using nutrition, physical activity, physical medicine, relaxation/stress reduction techniques and select modalities.
If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you probably are aware of one of my favorite modalities to treat pain– red light therapy. Red light (from 660-880 nm wavelength) and infrared light (non-visible) can be effectively used to treat chronic pain and actually enhance soft tissue and nerve tissue healing.
For an explanation of how red light therapy can help you manage joint and muscle pain, watch my YouTube video where I explain it.
The second modality that I recommend you try if you have chronic pain is Pulsed Electromagnetic Field (PEMF) therapy. PEMF has medical research that confirms its effectiveness in enhancing healing of bone and cartilage injuries or damage.
PEMF has long been known to have therapeutic benefits. In the 1960s, researchers demonstrated that electromagnetic field energy, or “magnetobiology” could help bones heal themselves.
In order for something to be therapeutically viable, it needs to be able to create a physiological change in the human body that benefits the body in some way. For example, COX-2 anti-inflammatory medications chemically block enzymes responsible for generating inflammation, thus reducing pain. Heat dilates blood vessels and increases circulation, which reduces pain and increases mobility in a muscle; cold constricts blood vessels, reduces swelling and numbs nerves which can reduce acute pain.
As for magnetic fields, evidence shows that they can influence cell membranes, since cell membranes rely on tiny electrical charges to change their permeability. When there is inflammation and swelling present, cell membranes dictate what passes into and out of the cells into the extracellular space.
During inflammation and recent injury (acute phase), red blood cells clump together, resembling a stack of coins. This is known as “rouleaux formation” and is due to increased levels of serum proteins, particularly fibrinogen and globulins.
PEMF seems to have the ability to thin out thickened blood by loosening rouleaux formations. This allows blood to flow faster to and from an injury/ inflamed site, delivering oxygen and reparative agents faster.
Currently, the subject of magnetobiology is experiencing a surge in interest in academia, with a staggering 350% increase in articles published on the topic over the last 15 years. What can this mean?
Whenever there is a flurry of research activity in a particular field, it usually means that scientists are finding promising results in their research; i.e. they are seeing something actually work in the lab.
The findings are published in peer-reviewed medical journals read by researchers around the world. The world-wide, academic collaboration decides whether the topic is valid and worthy of further investigation. Based on the volume of research, that is the case for pulsed electromagnetic therapy. What this means to pain sufferers is that PEMF is worth looking into; it has passed the stringent “snake oil test” of medical research involving randomized, controlled clinical trials. I have summarized two of them below.
Low frequency and low intensity pulsed electromagnetic field exerts its anti-inflammatory effect through restoration of plasma membrane calcium ATPase activity — Ramasamy Selvam, et. al.
This study involved artificially causing rheumatoid arthritis in rat leg joints by injecting an irritant into the joint. A control group, a group treated with PEMF, and a group treated with a traditional anti-inflammatory medication where used.
To find out whether PEMF has any stabilizing effect on membranes, this study measured PEMFs effect on:
• Edema/ swelling
• Levels of antioxidants
• Plasma membrane calcium ATPase (PMCA)
• Intracellular calcium (Ca+) levels
• Prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) in blood lymphocytes
Effect of PEMF on SWELLING: PEMF reduced swelling by 70.71% compared to 77.50% for the group treated with anti-inflammatory medication (diflonac).
Effect of PEMF on ANTI-OXIDANT LEVELS: Cells need anti-oxidants to neutralize free-radicals, which damage cell membranes and DNA. The anti-oxidant levels were decreased in the arthritic group compared to the control (untested) group. However, treatment with PEMF and diclofenac resulted in a significant rise in anti-oxidant activitiy.
Effect of PEMF on CELL MEMBRANE FUNCTION: PMCA is a protein found in all cells’ plasma membrane (shield or covering) that helps pump calcium ions (Ca+) out of the cell as they build up. It is necessary to keep Ca+ ion concentration low in order for the cell to carry out its normal, biological functions (signaling). When there is inflammation such as that caused by rheumatoid arthritis, it generates oxidative stress (free radical damage) to the cell membrane, resulting in decreased activity of PMCA and buildup of Ca+ ions.
The study demonstrated that PEMF could stabilize the membranes and restore PMCA activity, thereby maintaining intracellular Ca2+ level at extremely low levels. This, in turn, decreased the inflammatory PGE2 levels (prostaglandin—the precursor substance of inflammation) and consequently suppressed the inflammation.
CONCLUSION: low frequency and low intensity PEMF is indeed beneficial in reducing inflammation without potential side effects indicating that it could be a viable alternative therapy for treatment of RA.
Pulsed Shortwave Treatment in Women With Knee Osteoarthritis: A Multicenter, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial
Thiago Yukio Fukuda, et.al.
One hundred twenty-one women (mean age=60 years, SD=9) with a diagnosis of knee osteoarthritis (OA) were tested to see if pulsed electromagnetic therapy could reduce their arthritis. “Low dose” and “High dose” groups were created to determine the best therapeutic dosage.
Participants were distributed randomly into 4 groups: 35 participants did not receive any treatment (control group), 23 received a placebo treatment, 32 received low-dose PSW treatment (power of 14.5 W, treatment duration of 19 minutes, and total energy of 17 kJ), and 31 received high-dose PSW treatment (power of 14.5 W, treatment duration of 38 minutes, and total energy of 33 kJ). An 11-point numerical pain rating scale and the Knee Osteoarthritis Outcome Score were used to assess pain and function in 3 stages: at initial evaluation (pretreatment), immediately after treatment, and at 12-month follow-up.
Results: The results demonstrated the short-term effectiveness of the PSW at low and high doses in patients with knee OA. Both treatment groups showed a significant reduction in pain and improvement in function compared with the control and placebo groups. There were no differences in results between PSW doses, although a low dose of PSW appeared to be more effective in the long term.
Note: These results were achieved without physical exercise, which could have positively influenced the results.
Conclusion: Pulsed shortwave treatment is an effective method for pain relief and improvement of function and quality of life in the short term in women with knee OA. On the basis of the results, application of PSW treatment is recommended in the female population with knee OA.
The Bottom Line:
Pulsed Electromagnetic Therapy is a safe and viable method for reducing inflammatory pain. Research suggests that electromagnetic fields can influence cell membrane permeability in a way that reduces the severity of pain.
Best of all, it doesn’t involve using harmful and addictive medication. Since there are numerous variables in pain cases (age, general health, pre-existing conditions, injury severity, etc.) people will have varying results using PEMF. If you are experiencing musculoskeletal pain, I highly recommend you give PEMF a try.
The following two devices are two, popular consumer-level pulsed EMF devices. They are easy to operate and do not cause any pain. Some users report nearly instantaneous relief while others report relief after several treatment sessions. Again, it all depends on your particular health situation.
Pulsed EMF on Amazon:
If you wish to learn how to integrate PEMF into a home care regiment for chronic pain, please visit the Regenerate & Rehab Method online courses on self-managing chronic pain.