Treating Chronic Pain with PEMF
By Jonathan Bowen
Treat Pain with PEMF
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Pain can be treated with PEMF by blocking the messages transmitted to the brain through the nervous system. Natural endorphins can be produced which block message transmission. Oxygenation can help with neuropathic pain. Inflammation can be reduced in both tissue and nerves decreasing pain. This article discusses the way pain works in the body and the ways in which pain can be treated with PEMF.
The Mechanics of Sensations
The human body has a communication system which connects to the brain. The brain works like a supercomputer receiving and transmitting messages through a network comprised of nerves cells.
The nerve cells are called neurons. The neurons have a nucleolus at the center which are connected to dendrites and axons – like a wiring mechanism of the nerves . The dendrites convey messages into the nucleolus, they are the input wires. The axons convey messages away from the nucleolus, they are the output wires.
Nerve cells connect at the axon terminals where the synapses are located. The axon of once nerve cell (the output) will connect to the dendrite of another nerve cell (the input), passing the message along. This happens at the axon terminal through chemical molecules called neurotransmitters.
According to medical wisdom, neurons cannot regenerate, but damaged axons can.
There are two basic networks of nerve cells:
- The central nervous system, whose axons are situated in the brain, the eye and the spinal cord (like the wires inside a computer).
- The peripheral nervous system, whose axons are situated outside of the central nervous system (like network wires).
Messages are transferred from the axons, and there are two types of axons:
- Sensory axons (inputs) which carry messages from the skin, muscles, joints, internal organs and intestines to the central nervous system. These include sensations like touch, temperature, pain, muscle activity, and joint position.
- Motor Axons (outputs) which control motion and carry signals from the central nervous systems to the body, limbs, internal organs and intestines.
Inside the brain there are intermediate neurons which connect the sensory and motor neurons together.
Messages are transferred from the axons by electrical pulses called action potentials. These electrical pulses travel from the sensory axons to the central nervous system where they activate the nerve cells and cause sensations.
The longer axons (or wires) are insulated with the myelin sheath, which increases the speed at which a message can travel down the axon (or wire). Shorter axons do not have myelin insulators, and messages travel slower through them. It is the shorter axons that carry messages about touch, cold, warmth and pain. Because they are slower communication channels, a pain message from the foot can take about 1 second to reach the central nervous system (the spinal cord).
A harmful sensation is simply an electrical pulse that is sent by the sensory axons to the central nervous system where it is interpreted as “pain”.
Sensations are transmitted to the brain and include a lot more than just pain. The sense of balance is critical to being able to stand upright. Sensations such as hunger, thirst, swallowing, and the need to go to the bathroom are all critical. Some sensations are autonomous such as the heart beat and breathing.
Pain is a sensation sent to the brain that would indicate the body is being damaged and a response needs to be engaged. The sensory axons pass the message of discomfort to the central nervous system, where it is interpreted, and then a message is sent by the motor axons to respond, (i.e. move your hand away from the hot stove that is burning it). The pain sensation can also cause a person to feel the need to rest, which allows time for healing.
The nociceptors are the neurons that negotiate pain or interpret it. They reach out from the brain stem and spinal cord to the skin, muscles joints and internal organs. They do not have the myelin insulators which most other sensory nerves have. The nociceptors can be activated either by being cut or crushed, burned, or triggered by chemicals produced when tissues are inflamed. Once activated, they send messages to the thalamus and cerebral cortex of the brain. Inflammation is one of the sources of ongoing pain, as the nociceptors remain activated, or turned on.
The nociceptors can be over stimulated and become super sensitive to messages that are not even related to pain coming other sensory axons which are simply transmitting information about the body’s activities. Non-painful stimuli can be confused for painful stimuli, causing chronic pain.
There are two types of pain:
- Acute Pain – pain that is felt immediately and will continue until the cause is addressed.
- Chronic Pain – pain that outlasts the injury and the healing process.
Acute pain is necessary to trigger a response, but chronic pain can be very debilitating. It is usually the result of a malfunction in the nervous system.
Diseases Causing Pain
Pain can be caused by trauma, or mechanical issues such as carpal tunnel syndrome where the nerve is compressed due to inflammation, but also by diseases.
Inflammation of a nerve, or a group of nerves is called neuritis. Neuritis can be felt in a range of symptoms. These include pins and needles, burning sensations, and partial or complete paralysis. It also can result in heightened sensitivity.
Neuritis can be caused by diseases such as lyme, multiple sclerosis, and lupus. It is also caused by infections such as shingles, diphtheria, polio, tetanus, hepatitis, and HIV. It can be caused by toxic chemicals poisoning from heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury and lead. Drugs and alcohol can be a cause. Neuritis can also be caused by metabolic issues such as acidosis, vitamin deficiencies (like Vitamin B) and diabetes.
With some diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, the myelin sheath (the protective insulator of the axons) is damaged and this can result in numbness, but also in weakness in muscles.
The Peripheral nerves can be damaged by diabetes. The excess sugar in the body attaches itself to the nerves. When the sugar is attacked by the body’s white blood cells, they also attack the nerve itself, causing nerve damage and peripheral neuropathy or (nerve pain) and neuritis. Another cause of neuropathy is cancer medications such as chemotherapy.
Neuralgia is pain that occurs along the course of a sensory nerve. This can be seen in issues such as trigeminal neuralgia which causes pain along the trigeminal nerve in the cheek which sends messages from the jaw, nose, mouth and eyes to the brain.
The goal in pain management is to relieve pain. This is achieved in several ways:
- Resolve the trigger of the pain. This is done by moving away from a painful stimulus, or if damage has been inflicted, pain will reduce as healing takes place.
- Turn off the nociceptors (or pain switches) by reducing inflammation.
- Block the pain messages being sent to the brain.
This is why it is helpful to understand how pain messages reach the brain, to help us manage our pain.
Traditionally, pain has been treated through the use of drugs.
Treating Pain with Drugs
Local Anesthetics work by blocking the action potentials from passing a message to the brain, and consequently, pain is not felt. It is not that the trigger does not exist, it is simply that the message cannot reach the brain. The chemical properties of the anesthetic block the delivery of the message.
Analgesics are drugs which produce an insensibility to pain without the loss of consciousness. It comes from two Greek words, an meaning without and algesis meaning to suffer pain. Typical analgesics are aspirin and acetaminophen which prevent the production of chemicals that turn on (or sensitize) the nociceptors.
A February 2014 article in the Toronto Star identified some of the problems: an over reliance on acetaminophen in the western world has been recently associated with liver damage, liver failure, and death. The World Health Organization has identified it as the main cause of liver failure. In Canada, products containing Acetaminophen have a clear warning: “Taking more than the maximum daily dose may cause severe or possibly fatal liver damage.” The risks of taking Acetaminophen include, “nausea, vomiting, weakness, excessive sweating, anorexia, abdominal pain, or pale lips, tongue, mouth, palms, or impaired cognition.”
Narcotic Opioids are drugs which are more powerful and typically used for more severe pain. These can include morphine, codeine, and pethidine. Sometimes, chronic pain is also treated with antiepileptic’s, antidepressants, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and opioids.
Opioids have been all over the news headlines in North America, with many citing opioid use as being epidemic. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported the following in an article entitled U.S. Opioid Epidemic:
Increased prescription of opioid medications led to widespread misuse of both prescription and non-prescription opioids before it became clear that these medications could indeed be highly addictive.
Devastating consequences of the opioid epidemic include increases in opioid misuse and related overdoses, as well as the rising incidence of newborns experiencing withdrawal syndrome due to opioid use and misuse during pregnancy.
Opioid overdoses accounted for more than 42,000 deaths in 2016, more than any previous year on record. An estimated 40% of opioid overdose deaths involved a prescription opioid.
PEMF : A viable treatment for chronic pain
Understanding that the causes and mechanics of pain, it becomes easier to understand how PEMF can treat it. Remember, pain management is achieved in several ways:
- Resolve the trigger of the pain by healing the cause.
- Turn off the the nociceptors (or pain switches) by reducing inflammation.
- Block the pain messages being sent to the brain.
Pain killers cannot help with the first of these, because they have no ability to help in the healing process. PEMF treatment is geared to both symptom and root cause, and therefore is far superior. The benefit of PEMF in dealing with both the underlying pathology while providing pain relief was also reported by a Los Angeles study:
“This review article notes that low-frequency electromagnetic therapy has been used for a variety of purposes. Those specifically identified by the author include cell growth promotion, pain reduction, improved blood circulation, bone repair, increased wound healing, sedative effects, enhanced sleep, and arthritic relief.” (1)
PEMF and Nerve Repair
Remember, according to medical wisdom, neurons cannot regenerate, but damaged axons can. PEMF will help facilitate the repair ofdamaged axons – the wires that carry messages.
It also can help repair the myelin sheath which insulates some axons. Remember, some nerve damage results from a lack of blood supply. PEMF increases oxygenation of the blood, the microcirculation and the efficiency of blood flow into low-vascular areas. This facilitates the delivery of oxygen and the necessary nutrients to regenerate the myelin sheath.
Some of the necessary vitamins and minerals include iodine, vitamin C, zinc, vitamin D, lithium orotate, and iron. Also, some of the body’s own hormones can help it this regard such as pregnenolne. Omega-3 fatty acids obtained from fish have been found to be great brain food, but also to promote production of myelin. Another hormone that is necessary for nerve repair is melatonin. Melatonin is the body’s natural sleep medicine, and it is during sleep that healing takes place. It also promotes myelination and reduces the inflammation of the brain.
PEMF can also help the natural production of brain hormones by stimulating the pineal gland and enhancing its function and production of hormones such as melatonin.
In a scientific study reported in the Journal of Reconstructive Microsurgery the following was stated:
The results showed that the electrophysiologic index, the diameter and myelin-sheath thickness of regenerating nerve fibers, the sciatic functional index (SFI), and the strength of the triceps surae muscle in the experimental group were much better than those in the control group. This indicated that electrical stimulation could effectively promote peripheral nerve regeneration and produce positive effects after 3 weeks, and that the stimulator was not rejected by the host for a relatively long period of time. (2)
In another scientific study in the paper “Paraplegia,” the authors reported the result of their experiment, stating:
“…the pulsed electromagnetic therapy has induced nerve fibre regeneration across the region of the scar” (3)
As we have seen, neuronal cells are responsible for transmitting electrical signals throughout the body. For example, if you want to open your hand, the brain sends electrical command signals to the muscles responsible for opening the hand. These electrical signals reach these muscles and if there is no damage to the neuronal cells going from the brain towards these muscles, then the hand will open. If there is damage as a result of an accident or surgery the body will repair the damage and regenerate the neuronal cells over time. In September 2003 Thomas Goodwin, Ph.D. of NASA, who investigated the effect of electromagnetic fields on neuronal cells, published an experimental study. The purpose of the NASA study was to find out if it was possible to stimulate regeneration or regrowth of neural tissue with electromagnetic fields in order to improve electrical conductivity between the neuronal cells. The study concluded electromagnetic field stimulation improved regrowth by 250% to 400%.
Nerve damage, one of the causes of pain, can be greatly helped by PEMF.
Reducing Inflammation with PEMF
As we have seen, inflammation is also a common cause of pain. Often we only think of inflammation in soft tissue, but inflammation is commonly identified by the suffex ‘itis’ tagged to the end of many disease names such as arthritis and neuritis. It affects soft tissue and bone.
Inflammation can cause an obstruction in blood flow which can cause a of the lack of oxygen. PEMF administered through the Curatron range of products re-energizes the cells to allow maximum healing efficiency. Cell energy production (ATP creation) is drastically enhanced as oxygenation is brought to the highest level possible. Nutrients are brought to the area needing healing, and harmful toxins and pathogens are removed at a much higher rate due to the reduction of the Rouleaux effect. The white blood cells are delivered more efficiently enabling the immune system to fight infection at a much greater rate, rather than having infection spread to a larger area.
PEMF has the effect of clearing all roadways to an accident site to allow full, uninhibited, immediate medical attention to treat the underlying problem while stimulating the natural endorphins to treat pain at the same time. The quicker the cells are empowered to repair and be replaced, the quicker pain will subside.
As we have seen, inflammation can create pressure, triggering the nociceptors and sending pain messages to the brain. Inflammation will also decrease circulation in affected tissues.
PEMF increases blood supply and circulation and promotes healing of the soft and bone.
In study entitled “Complex Regional Pain Syndrome… Possible Role for Pulsed Electromagnetic Fields” in the Pain Physician Journal, the researchers reported:
PEMF stimulation has been studied and proposed for the regeneration of musculoskeletal tissues such as cartilage, bone, tendon, and ligament. Several preclinical studies have shown PEMF anabolic and anti-inflammatory activity in musculoskeletal tissues. (4)
At the end of the study, the authors concluded:
It is interesting to observe how the positive effects of PEMFs are evident in both acute and chronic inflammatory diseases, making this approach broadly applicable to numerous clinical presentations. (4)
Dr. Pawluk in a January 2015 study entitled “Magnetic Fields for Pain Control” reported the following:
“Several authors have reviewed the experience with PEMFs in Eastern Europe and elsewhere and provided a synthesis of the typical physiologic findings of practical use to clinicians, resulting from magnetic therapies. These include, at a minimum, reduction in edema (or swelling) and muscle spasm/contraction, improved circulation, enhanced tissue repair, and natural antinociception (the turning off of the pain signals discussed earlier). These are the fundamentals of the repair of cell injury. PEMFs have been used extensively in many conditions and medical disciplines, being most effective in treating rheumatic or musculoskeletal disorders. PEMFs produced significant reduction of pain, improvement of spinal functions, and reduction of paravertebral spasms. In clinical practice, PEMFs have been found to be an aid in the therapy of orthopedic and trauma problems.” (5)
Specifically, when it came to inflammation, Pawluk reported
PEMFs promote healing of soft tissue injuries by reducing edema (swelling) and increasing resorption of hematomas (bleeding), thereby reducing pain. Low-frequency PEMFs reduce edema primarily during treatment sessions… This is expected to increase lymphatic flow, an additional factor contributing to edema reduction… (5)
Another area where PEMF decreases pain is by increasing circulation:
Chronic pain is often accompanied with or results from decreased circulation or perfusion to the affected tissues, for example, cardiac angina or intermittent claudication. PEMFs have been shown to improve circulation. Pain syndromes due to muscle tension and neuralgias improve. (5)
Treat Pain by Blocking Messages Naturally
Pain messages are passed through the nerve network by the axons in electrical form, but must go through the transfer stations (synaptic gaps) where the message is transferred from one nerve to another across this gap. The pain message transfer happens when a change in voltage takes place. When the voltage rises significantly, a release of chemical transmitters takes place, transferring the pain signal, in chemical form to the next nerve messenger, where it is converted back into an electrical message and sent on.
A ground-breaking study by Ulrich Warnke in 1983(6), and a second one in 1997, showed that PEMF can lower the voltage in the nerve cell, below the threshold of +30mV necessary to trigger the release of neurotransmitters which are necessary pass the message along.PEMF effectively blocks pain because does not allow the neurotransmitter switch to be turned on because does not allow the neurotransmitter switch to be turned on and pass the pain message along.
While sometimes it is effective to treat pain at the source of the injury, whether it is a tissue damage from a wound, infection, a bruise, or a fracture, it is possible to treat pain by treating the message pathway, because pain messages travel along the axons to the central nervous system. It is also possible to treat brain itself which interprets the messages as pain
Treat Pain with Natural Medicine
The body handles pain by producing endorphins (such as endogenous morphine) in the central nervous system and the pituitary gland. Endorphins block the transmission of pain signals to the brain.
As we have seen, allopathic medicine deals with pain by prescribing opiates such as Morphine, Oxycodone, Percocet, Opium and other drugs, which are addictive and harmful to the liver, kidneys, and bowel, especially during prolonged periods of exposure.
PEMF energy medicine stimulates the production of natural endorphins and therefore is very effective in dealing with pain, especially chronic pain. It does not have the side effects of invasive surgery or pharmaceuticals.
In a March, 2003 publication on Pain Management with PEMF Treatment, Dr. William Pawluk explains:
“Direct effects of magnetic fields [on pain] are: neuron firing, calcium ion movement, membrane potentials, endorphin levels, nitric oxide, dopamine levels, acupuncture actions and nerve regeneration. Indirect benefits of magnetic fields on physiologic function are on: circulation, muscle, edema, tissue oxygen, inflammation, healing, prostaglandins, cellular metabolism and cell energy levels… Short-term effects are thought due to a decrease in cortisol and noradrenaline, and an increase in serotonin, endorphins and enkephalins. Longer term effects may be due to CNS and/or peripheral nervous system biochemical and neuronal effects in which correction of pain messages occur; and the pain is not just masked as in the case of medication”. (5)
Neuropathic Pain Treatment
Neuropathic pain is caused by a disruption to the message transmission in the nervous system. In other words, roadblocks and detours are created on the nerve superhighway and the brain interprets this disruption as pain. Often the cause is related to oxygen deprivation in an area due to pressure, inflammation, or disease.
Curatron’s ability to penetrate deep into the body, through bone and muscle mass enables the PEMF energy medicine to reach the affected areas. As with somatic and visceral pain the ability of the Curatron to oxygenate cells through maximizing blood flow immediately helps relieve pain by keeping cells alive.
PEMF operating at a level where it can penetrate through muscle and bones can help with the body’s ability to reprogram itself around damaged areas that cannot be immediately healed. This process is called neuroplasticity. Researchers have discovered brain activity for a given function can move to a different location of the brain following injury, as Dr. Norman Doidge describes:
“If you are driving from here to Milwaukee and the main bridge goes out, first you are paralyzed. Then you take old secondary roads through the farmland. Then you use these roads more; you find shorter paths to use to get where you want to go, and you start to get there faster. These “secondary” neural pathways are “unmasked” or exposed and strengthened as they are used. The “unmasking” process is generally thought to be one of the principal ways in which the plastic brain reorganizes itself.” (7)
Dr. Doidge reports how scientists have discovered that the brain can remap itself:
“Merzenich’s new theory was that neurons in brain maps develop strong connections to one another when they are activated at the same moment in time. And if maps could change, thought Merzenich, then there was reason to hope that people born with problems in brain map-processing areas — people with learning problems, psychological problems, strokes, or brain injuries — might be able to form new maps if he could help them form new neuronal connections, by getting their healthy neurons to fire together and wire together.” (8)
PEMF stimulates brain cells and encourages neuroplasticity to take place, remapping problem areas and rerouting traffic that has been disrupted due to trauma. This will result in the reduction of neuropathic pain.
We have also learned that nerve pain can be caused by disease. We have seen how peripheral neuropathy caused by diabetes can be addressed. There is more. Nerve pain due to diseases such as multiple sclerosis was also relieved, as was reported in the Journal of Bioelectricity:
“Results of this double-blind, placebo-controlled study indicated that pulsed electromagnetic fields administered daily over a period of 15 days is a generally effective treatment in reducing symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis, with the most positive improvements involving the alleviation of spasticity and pain.” (9)
PEMF has been demonstrated to be an effective treatment of pain and many of its causes. It does not have the side effects of surgery, narcotics, or over the counter medications which can cause a series of problems. PEMF is safe and effective, in areas where traditional methods have been unsuccessful.
So if you, or your patients are suffering from chronic pain consider PEMF as a viable, safe, effective and powerful alternative.
(2) Experimental study using a direct current electrical field to promote peripheral nerve regeneration. Journal of Reconstructive Microsurgery. 1995 May;11(3):189-93. Shen N, Zhu J. Department of Orthopedics, People’s Hospital of Hainan Province, Haikou, People’s Republic of China. PMID: 7650644
(3) Experimental regeneration in peripheral nerves and the spinal cord in laboratory animals exposed to a pulsed electromagnetic field. Paraplegia. 1976 May;14(1):12-20. Wilson DH, Jagadeesh P. PMID: 180476, Paraplegia. 1976 May;14(1):12-20.
(4) Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Type I, a Debilitating and Poorly Understood Syndrome. Possible Role for Pulsed Electromagnetic Fields: A Narrative Review. Pain Physician Journal. 2017 October; 20:E807-E822. Stefania Pagani BSc, Francesca Veronesi PhD, Nicolò Nicoli Aldini MD, and Milena Fini MD. Laboratory of Preclinical and Surgical Studies, Rizzoli Orthopedic Institute, Bologna, Italy.
(5) Magnetic Fields for Pain Control, Electromagnetic Fields in Biology and Medicine. 2015 January. Dr. William Pawluk. CRC Press, publication Jan 2015 edited by Marko S. Markov.
(6) The possible role of pulsating magnetic fields in the reduction of pain. Warnke U. Elsevier Biomedical Press, Pain Therapy, 1983.
(7) Doidge, Norman MD (2007). The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science. p9
(8) Doidge, Norman MD (2007). The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science. p63
(9) A. Guseo, Pulsing Electromagnetic Field Therapy of Multiple Sclerosis the Gyuling-Bordacs Device: Double-Blind, Cross-Over and Open Studies, Journal of Bioelectricity., 6(1), 1987, p. 23-35