Course Progress 70%
How can PEMFs be considered safe when there is so much concern expressed about EMFs [environmental magnetic fields?
The primary reason for this is that environmental magnetic fields tend to be very high-frequency or microwave fields, primarily from cell phones, cell phone towers and Wi-Fi. PEMFs have been designed to be low-frequency and fairly low intensity. In some ways they may be considered to be natural magnetic fields, because we are surrounded by these as part of the so-called Schumann resonances and other natural normal background magnetic fields of the planet, in which all biology evolved over the eons.
As noted before, magnetic field therapy has been around for over 50 years in Europe. It is deeply supported by research. I personally have over 30,000 references for the biologic effects of PEMFs. Many of these are in the Eastern European literature. However, the literature continues to grow significantly, especially with the latest research of their effects on the brain and nervous system, with devices called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). Even today, the FDA considers PEMF systems to be low risk and largely wellness devices. In fact, the FDA is currently recommending that PEMF device suppliers do not apply for FDA approval.
The safety of PEMF treatments has been thoroughly studied. The two primary concerns are exposure time and intensity level. Each of the hundreds of research studies cited in the PTFH book were, in a way, also a test of the safety of the stimulation itself. Even those studies that did not conclusively show a benefit, they at least showed few if any adverse effects.
There are no long-term PEMF therapy studies in humans. Long-term occupational exposures provide some information regarding PEMF risk. For example, assessments were done of utility workers occupationally exposed to strong electromagnetic fields (EMFs), either doing live-line maintenance tasks or in substations, for at least 1 year. The live-line workers were exposed to magnetic fields as strong as 7 mT (70 Gauss) peak.
Substation live-line maintenance workers were exposed at lower peak magnetic field levels of up to 700 uT (7 Gauss). Substation workers suffered from long-term illnesses at an annual incidence of 95 per 100,000 while it was 200 per 100,000 for control employees. The workers exposed to strong EMFs do not seem to be at increased risk for any specific health problems.
The highest intensity PEMFs most humans will ever be exposed to are those produced by an MRI machine. Most MRI machines produce intensities between 15,000 and 30,000 gauss (1.5 – 3 T). Like the therapeutic PEMFs discussed in this book, the diagnostic magnetic fields produced by an MRI are non-ionizing. Though guidelines suggest pregnant women only undergo MRI when essential, there have been no demonstrable effects of these high intensities on a fetus, further proving their safety even on tissues as sensitive as those in a developing fetus.
There are only a few FDA-approved PEMF systems on the market. The primary mandate of the FDA is to ensure safety – even before proving efficacy of treatment. So, keeping that in mind, we can examine the treatment parameters for one such FDA-approved PEMF system: the NeuroStar.
This system (which uses the acronym TMS – transcranial magnetic stimulation – instead of PEMF) is approved for Major Depressive Disorder and is an extremely high intensity system with stimulation aimed directly at the brain. The NeuroStar type systems produce intensities fairly close to those of an MRI machine. Stimulation intensity in these types of systems is usually measured based on the Motor Threshold, which refers to the intensity required to cause muscle contractions when the coil is placed over the motor cortex of the brain. This intensity will vary from patient to patient, so protocols are usually measured as a % of the Motor Threshold, where the person administering the treatment will turn the intensity up until the patient experiences muscle contractions in a hand, and then either leave the intensity there, or turn it up or down somewhat. The most common Motor Threshold parameters are between 90% and 120%. Average treatment sessions last for 45 minutes. In NeuroStar clinical trials, more than 10,000 treatments were administered with no occurrence of adverse side effects.
Below, we have selected a variety of studies done on the safety of PEMF therapy, covering a wide range of treatment parameters including both high intensity treatments and long-term exposures.
Safety of stimulation of the brain:
When PEMFs are aimed at the brain for any reason, concern about safety and risk of brain harm is automatically raised. There is much evidence to suggest that there is minimal risk, with a significant potential for benefit. The safety and risk of PEMFs have been assessed in a number of studies.
In one such study, no significant side effects were seen after intense TMS treatment programs. One patient received 70 treatment sessions over 12 months, or 420,000 pulses, with no side effects. One 75-year old patient received 130 sessions over 26 months with a total number of 156,000 stimuli, while 7 patients received 60 sessions over 12 months with a total number of 72,000 stimuli. In another study healthy men were given 12,960 high intensity rTMS magnetic pulses a day for up to 3 days in 1 week. This equals 38,880 magnetic pulses over 1 week, one of the largest exposures of TMS reported to date. Despite this intense treatment regimen, no significant side effects were seen.
Even in the setting of relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis combined with TBI, no patient showed problems.
PEMFs even appear to reduce the risk of seizures and do not promote brain glioma tumor growth. Newborn brains are considered especially vulnerable. The brains of newborn rats exposed to high intensity magnetic fields did not show any evidence of harm.
Regarding seizures and epilepsy:
As long as I’ve been working with PEMFs, people have always expressed concern that PEMFs around the head may cause seizures. There is now a fairly large body of research regarding the use of PEMFs of different intensities and their association with seizures. Most of the evidence indicates that PEMFs are very unlikely to cause seizures, even with high-intensity PEMF systems. Research at the University of Louisville School of Medicine done on a patient with partial seizures un-responsive to medications found that the number of seizures during the month of stimulation as compared to the month before stimulation, was reduced by 70% and there was a 77% reduction in the risk of seizures between episodes of seizures. No seizures occurred during slow frequency (about 1 Hz) TMS. If anything, the TMS inhibited the cortical brain hyperactivity normally seen in these brains.
Safety of stimulation of the prostate:
PEMFs are often recommended for the treatment of prostate hyperplasia (BPH). BPH can be a setting in which prostate cancer may be more likely to grow due to the chronic inflammation present. There is a concern that PEMFs can stimulate prostate cancer growth or development. In fact, research shows the opposite may be true. There is evidence to show that PEMFs could possibly reduce the growth of prostate cancer cells even in advanced stage hormone resistant prostate cancer. Taxol is frequently used in this setting. 60 Hz PEMFs from only 1 to 5 G were compared with and without Taxol. After 48 hrs. of treatment with taxol, prostate cancer cells died. PEMF exposure by itself also induced cancer cell death in the prostate cancer cells. The effect is better when the two are combined.
Based on this extensive clinical research, both with the express intention of determining safety, and the thousands of studies done otherwise, magnetic field exposure has shown no important adverse side effects. PEMFs of wide ranges of intensity and treatment times are safe, regardless of the area of the body being treated, or the gender or age of the patient. Even pets and other animals do not appear to have issues.
Now let’s go to the next section.