This is a great review on the use of PEMF in veterinary medicine! The authors provide a brief history of PEMF devices and an overview of how they affect the biological processes in the body to produce beneficial results. They also discuss how PEMF has been successfully used for bone healing, osteoarthritis, pain and inflammation control, soft tissue wound healing, as well as for treating psychiatric and neurological disorders. I will highlight the important points below:
Modern PEMF devices were developed in the 1930's.
PEMF devices called "bone growth stimulators" were FDA approved in 1979.
Proven biological effects of PEMF
PEMF increases the concentration of Nitric Oxide (NO), which activate anti-inflammatory responses, enhance blood flow, and increase the productions of growth factors necessary for tissue repair.
PEMF increases the expression of Heat Shock Proteins, which are associated with cryoprotective and anti-cell death processes.
Bone growth and Osteoarthritis studies
Leg fractures treated with PEMF showed:
Faster recovery of load-bearing ability
Increased bone formation
Stronger mechanical strength compared to controls (fractures with no PEMF treatment).
A study comparing PEMF treatment vs. a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drug on osteoarthritis in dogs found that the PEMF treated group significantly outperformed the NSAID treated group.
Pain, inflammation and wound healing studies
Paraplegic dogs (paralyzed hind end) that had spinal decompression surgery were treated with PEMF for 1 month. These dogs showed:
A significant reduction in surgical site pain
Lower concentrations of inflammatory biomarkers
Improved proprioceptive function in the hind legs compared to non-PEMF treated dogs.
A study done in rats showed that non-targeted (whole body) PEMF increased the growth of new blood vessels 5 times more than the control (non-PEMF treated) rats!
Psychiatric and Neurological disorders
Both pre-clinical (cells/animals) and clinical (humans) studies have demonstrated that PEMF promotes healing in models of stoke, traumatic brain injury, brain cancer, and Alzheimer's disease.
How?? PEMF reduces inflammatory cytokine production in the brain after injury.
A review of over 1300 peer-reviewed publications studying PEMF (1950 - 2018) found no adverse health effects!
Want to read more about PEMF and laser therapy?
Check out these research studies!
Penetration Profiles of a Class IV Therapeutic Laser and a Photobiomodulation Therapy Device in Equine Skin
Pacca Loureiro -Luna et al, 2020
In this study, a Multi Radiance Medical Class 1 laser and another company's Class 4 laser were tested for the depth of light penetration in dark and light equine skin. 6 Arabians and 6 Quarter horses were used for the study, with skin color classified as either light, medium dark, or dark (see photo). Two patches of skin were clipped, one on each side of the neck. Each horse received a light therapy treatment using one device on each clipped area for 2 minutes (neck sides were counterbalanced). The depth of light penetration was measured and reported as seen in the graphs on the right.
The Multi Radiance Laser (ActiVet Pro) was the clear winner!
Although Class 1 lasers are often thought of as less powerful than Class 4 lasers, the MW Class 1 laser produced more than TEN TIMES the light penetration than the Class 4 device in both light and dark skin. The MW laser even showed good penetration through unclipped skin. With both devices, the light penetrated much deeper through light skin than dark skin. The article concludes by stating that as a result of the greater penetration, the Class 1 device "may produce a better therapeutic clinical effect."
Comparative study of the efficacy of pulsed electromagnetic field and low level laser therapy
El-Makakey et al, 2017
In this study, 50 patients (30 male, 20 female) with ages between 20-32 years old were treated with either PEMF or LLLT after having an appendectomy surgery. Half of the patients received PEMF, while the other half received LLLT on the incision site twice a day (20-30 minutes per treatment) for 6 days. The researchers measure the levels of 3 proteins in the blood before and after treatment:
Extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK): Regulates cell division, proliferation, and differentiation
p38 and C-JUN N-terminal kinase: Regulate inflammatory responses, neurodegeneration, and cell death
They found that while both treatments showed clear benefits, PEMF had a more powerful healing effect as it increased levels of all 3 proteins. LLLT had a more potent pain decreasing effect, as it increased the levels of ERK and C-JUN.
Both PEMF and LLLT increase ERK
More cell growth and regeneration
Only PEMF increases p38
Both PEMF and LLLT increase C-JUN
Less inflammation and cell death