According to the World Health Organization, as many as 300 million people worldwide suffer from depression, which is around 5% of the total population on the planet.
It is easy to conclude that depression is one of the world’s major diseases, and therefore a problem that we have not been able to tackle properly.
Antidepressants provide help to some people, and so does counseling; however, many who do not respond well are seemingly left without hope.
For those patients, PEMF therapy provides a new source of solace, as studies show that it is an effective way to battle depression and its damaging consequences.
What is Depression?
Depression is significantly different from occasional mood swings and temporary responses to difficult emotional circumstances in our lives.
These come and go, and usually last for a couple of weeks or less.
Depression, on the other hand, is often there to stay.
It can take a person weeks, months, or even years to handle it successfully.
Some, unfortunately, do not manage to do that.
Depression can affect every aspect of our lives, and it causes the patient to perform poorly at work and in school and create difficulties in their social and emotional life.
If left undiagnosed and untreated, it can even lead to suicide.
Types of Depression and Symptoms
Depending on the majority of symptoms, depression can be categorized as mild, moderate, or severe.
During a mild depressive episode, a person will have problems maintaining their everyday social and work activities, but they will be able to continue functioning.
In the case of a severe depressive episode, a person is very unlikely to be able to manage their school, work, or social life.
They might do it to a limited extent, but not in a fully functional way.
Two important types of depression are Recurrent depressive disorder and Bipolar affective disorder.
Recurrent depressive disorder involves repeated periods of depression for at least two weeks.
During this time, the person experiences low mood, lack of interest, lack of appetite, and low energy.
Bipolar affective disorder involves both depressive and manic episodes.
During the manic episodes, a person is irritable and very active and energetic, has pressured speech and elevated self-esteem, and so on.
Causes, Prevention, and Treatment
Many factors can lead to depression, including biological, social, and psychological.
Difficult life events can increase one’s chances of developing depression.
However, genetics plays an important role as well.
Physical health problems can also cause depression, but the reverse is possible as well.
Depression can be prevented through community programs, group therapy, and individual therapy.
It is important to act accordingly when an adverse situation happens.
Exercise and change of lifestyle can help as well, as exercise boosts the secretion of endorphin and serotonin, known as ‘happiness hormones.’
When depression does happen, though, therapy and antidepressants play an important role.
However, more and more studies show that PEMF plays an important role in the treatment of depression.
Medical practitioners worldwide are advising patients to add PEMF therapy to their existing treatment in order to increase their chances of recovery.
PEMF Therapy and Depression
As we mentioned before, the WHO reports that depression is very common today.
It is the leading cause of disability in first-world countries.
Those patients who see improvement in their condition, unfortunately, experience relapses 37-70% of the time in the first year of treatment.
Moreover, it is reported that at least 30% of patients do not respond well to known forms of treatment, including antidepressants.
On top of that, antidepressants are known to cause serious side effects in many patients, including worsening of the depressive episode.
Encouraging news comes from studies done on the topic of PEMF and depression, which show that PEMF can greatly improve the emotional state of patients suffering from this disorder.
One such study was done by Harvard researchers in 2014.
The Harvard Study on PEMF and Depression
After observing mood elevation in patients suffering from bipolar affective disorder, a group of researchers at Harvard decided to create a mobile version of a PEMF device, able to produce a frequency of 1000 Hz.
This led to a study called Rapid mood-elevating effects of low field magnetic stimulation in depression, conducted by Rohan ML, Ravichandran CT, Yamamoto RT, Morales OG, Cavetano KR, Vitaliano G, Olson DP, Cohen BM, and Paul SM. (1)
The study observed how low field magnetic stimulation (LFMS) affected patients suffering from depression.
The method used was a double-blind, placebo-controlled protocol with depressed patients suffering either from BPD or major depressive disorder.
Participants received only one 20-minute treatment.
After that, their change in mood was tested using the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule scales, the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, and the Visual Analog Scale.
Significant improvement, more than 10%, was observed after the treatment using these tests, compared to the placebo group which showed no improvement.
This led the researchers to conclude that LFMS stimulation can produce changes in mood quickly using a range of electromagnetic fields that were not tested before.
However, it is still unclear how PEMF therapy works to relieve depression.
Some theories suggest that this low-frequency treatment causes neurons in our brain to vibrate at the same frequency as the PEMF.
This, in turn, changes the electrical activity of the neurons and neuronal networks, which eventually change the very way the part of our brain that controls mood works.
Moreover, PEMF therapy also shows signs of improving glucose metabolism in the parts of the brain that are linked to anxiety and depression.
The type of device that was used in the study above is, unfortunately, not commercially available.
However, similar devices with similar properties can be found on the market, and it is believed they can achieve similar effects.
Some neuroscientists report that significant neuronal changes can be achieved even with very low-frequency PEMF treatment.
Other Benefits of PEMF Therapy
In addition to being able to help with depression, there are other science-backed health benefits of PEMF therapy.
Because PEMF therapy works on a basic, cellular level in our body, it exerts its effects on different parts of our body and different health problems.
Let’s learn more about some of the most significant ones.
Accelerates Bone Healing
Non-union bone fracture is a condition that happens as a complication of a bone fracture when the bone does not heal properly after a certain period of treatment.
In some severe cases, this health condition requires surgery in order to heal properly.
However, surgery is unnecessary, since PEMF therapy provides a non-invasive way of addressing non-union fractures.
The Bangladesh Medical Research Council conducted a study in 1999 that proved this.
Thirteen patients suffering from non-union fractures received PEMF treatment for 14 weeks.
After the study, 11 out of 13 patients experienced complete healing of the fracture. (2)
Rheumatoid arthritis affects millions of people worldwide who are struggling to find a viable way of treating their symptoms.
The most common symptoms of RA include pain, swelling, and inflammation.
Studies show that PEMF can help with all of them.
In 1998, the Indian Medical Association published a study that sought a connection between PEMF and RA.
The results showed that PEMF can alleviate all of the uncomfortable symptoms of RA and is, therefore, a viable form of treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. (3)
Improves Range of Motion
Patients suffering from cervical osteoarthritis experience decreased range of motion as one of the symptoms.
This affects their general quality of life and, in extreme cases, can leave them bedridden.
Research published in Clinical Rheumatology showed that PEMF improved the range of motion in such patients, and reduced the muscle pain and muscle spasms that are common symptoms, as well. (4)
Increases Blood Flow
Research completed at Wake Forest University in the U.S. found that PEMF therapy improves blood circulation through vasodilatation.
Vasodilation also means lower blood pressure, because the blood vessels are able to carry more blood more easily.
This discovery shows that PEMF can also be used as a way to accelerate recovery from an injury, or prevent future ones.
Helps with Migraines
When a migraine attack happens, it usually means that a person suffering from it needs to take strong medications to treat it, or cease all of their daily activities.
Many times, even the medication does not help.
A study was conducted in the United States in 1999 that showed that PEMF therapy can help with migraine attacks by reducing both their frequency and intensity.
The study lasted for one month, during which patients received daily PEMF sessions.
After the completion of the study, all patients reported improvements in their migraine conditions. (6)
Promotes Nerve Repair
A study was completed in 1993 by the Bioelectromagnetics Society that tried to discover more about the effects of PEMF therapy on sciatic nerve repair.
The study was done on rats with such injuries, and the findings were encouraging.
The results showed that all of the rats recovered much more quickly after receiving PEMF treatment.
This finding offers new hope for people suffering from chronic sciatic nerve injury, which is quite prevalent.
Taking painkillers to address acute or chronic pain is an effective treatment method in the beginning.
Tolerance develops soon, though, so in order to achieve the same effects we need to take higher doses.
And this can lead to serious side effects.
On the other hand, a study conducted in 1993 by the Pain Research Institute came to the conclusion that PEMF is a safe and non-invasive way of dealing with pain.
The research focused on pelvic pain, but it can be used to treat pain that comes from different sources, as well.
Addresses Diabetic Factors
More and more people nowadays suffer from diabetes, due to poor lifestyle choices and diet.
Apart from diabetes, these patients often experience some serious complications.
One of these is diabetic polyneuropathy.
This condition is manifested through the sensation of numbness on both sides of the body, and it can greatly reduce overall quality of life.
In 2003, a study was conducted on the subject of PEMF and DPN.
Results showed that PEMF therapy was directly linked to a significant decrease in the symptoms of DPN, and improved the function of the affected nerves.
Therefore, the conclusion was that, with the help of PEMF, diabetic patients suffering from DPN can greatly improve their state and minimize the discomfort that this diabetic complication causes.
Since depression is a debilitating disease with significant consequences for all aspects of one’s life, every form of treatment that offers any chance of improvement is important, and should not be overlooked.
PEMF therapy should be considered an important method in battling this long-lasting mental disorder.
Most of the time, only one approach to treatment will not be enough to deal successfully with depression.
Because of that, we do not propose that other forms of treatment be ignored, nor do the investigators from the study presented in this article.
PEMF therapy should be viewed as an important addition to the existing forms of treatment that the patient is already using.
This is especially important for those who do not respond well to antidepressants, or are completely resistant to this type of medication.
PEMF therapy can enhance the effects of antidepressants, and decrease the side effects that accompany them.
The bottom line is that patients struggling with depression have a new source of hope.
Both very high-frequency PEMF devices and low-frequency devices can be used for this purpose, but the important thing is to use them on a daily basis, and be persistent with the treatment.