Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy (PEMF) is a steadily expanding treatment approach that uses pulses of electromagnetic waves to address health problems.
It is a technology that has garnered quite a lot of skepticism, as many do not understand the core concepts based on which it works.
Because of this, there is a lot of confusion across the internet, and anyone who decides to do some research will no doubt come across some conflicting information on different sites and forums.
And so it is only natural that many prospective users are wary about embracing this technology.
If you are such a person, then you have come to the right place.
In this article, we will look at certain myths that surround PEMF, and discuss why they are not factual.
This will help you truly understand PEMF technology better, and allow you to make the right decision for yourself.
So without further ado, let’s look into these misunderstandings one by one.
The Ideal Frequency, Intensity, and Waveform
In PEMF devices, the three most important features that you as a buyer or user should be aware of are its frequency, intensity, and waveform.
In almost all devices, there will be a range within which you can set your preference for all three factors.
With some, you might also get pre-set combinations that are meant to achieve maximum benefits depending on the health outcome you seek.
However, the key point to keep in mind is the lower and upper limits for these three components.
Generally, the greater the range, the more of a choice you can exercise.
But it is often the case that both PEMF companies and internet authorities market the idea of an ideal frequency, intensity, and waveform that together serve as the ultimate solution to your health issues.
The truth could not be further from this.
We can, of course, evaluate the options available, and pinpoint certain settings in each range that are more likely to effect a desired result.
But there is no perfect answer that will work for everybody and every purpose.
A lot of what is presented as the easy answer is in fact based on questionable logic, and fails to get you what you want.
Now let’s look at all three components in detail, and debunk the myths surrounding them.
With frequency, you may hear regularly the terms ‘natural’ and ‘earth-based.’
The problem with these terms, which are frequently misrepresented as fact, is that there is a very wide range of electromagnetic frequencies that we get exposed to naturally on earth.
Every second of your life, you experience various waves that support your existence in some way.
Let’s consider sound waves, which are mechanical waves, i.e. they require a medium (air molecules, in this case) through which to travel.
Our ears have limits for the frequencies that we are able to hear.
Nonetheless, within that range, we are exposed to a lot of different frequencies all the time.
Different voices have different frequencies, as do different musical notes.
Similarly, let’s consider light waves, which are electromagnetic and do not require any medium through which to travel.
Within the frequency range of visible light, there is a spectrum of colors that all have differing frequencies and wavelengths.
Every time you see the color red, your eyes translate a low frequency wave.
Every time you see violet, your eyes translate a much higher frequency wave.
And in the same way, you are unknowingly interacting with many different frequencies of electromagnetic waves every day.
Therefore, it is incorrect to assume that only low frequencies are ‘earth-based.’
That said, let’s address the hype about the Schumann resonances.
The Schumann resonances fall in the extremely low frequency (ELF) and very low frequency (VLF) ranges of the electromagnetic spectrum, with peaks at 7.83 Hz, 14.3 Hz, 20.8 Hz, 27.3 Hz, and 33.8 Hz.
These peaks are subject to change over time, primarily due to changes in electric charge in the ionosphere due to lightning.
7.83 Hz is considered the ‘fundamental’ resonance.
It is often termed the ‘heartbeat’ of the planet, and is said to be the frequency toward which all of our cells incline.
But what many fail to specify is that 7.83 Hz is merely the product of the specific physical realities of our atmosphere—mainly the planet’s size, the cavity between the planet and the ionosphere, and the density of the ionosphere.
This number does not affect Earth itself, nor does it affect the life that our planet holds.
In fact, this is a tiny portion of the total electromagnetic radiation to which we are exposed.
Radiation from the sun, for example, is much more relevant to our well-being.
So when marketers claim that a PEMF device with this wonderful Schumann frequency is superior to others, it is not quite the case.
The key takeaway here is that you should avoid succumbing to this profit-making ploy that utilizes scientific lingo and appeals to the human penchant for idealism, but does not actually make much sense.
The truth about frequency is that, for the most part, lower-end frequencies do appear to be the most beneficial.
Frequencies from 2 to 50 Hz have been shown consistently to be effective in achieving various benefits—from bone healing to tumor inhibition.
Different bodily areas respond with different enthusiasm to the same frequency, so no single point within that range (such as 7.38 Hz) will be the best frequency for every single health outcome.
No matter what frequency you use, your overall health will definitely improve, to some degree.
But changing the frequency throughout your sessions within your desired range will likely ensure that you see the most improvement possible, all around.
That said, you must also keep in mind that high-frequency PEMF is no more dangerous to your health than low frequency.
Even a very high-frequency PEMF device will still emit waves with a maximum frequency lower than that of an MRI machine, for example.
For some health conditions, including OCD and mood and eating disorders, high frequency sessions do seem to work rather well.
Looking into the ‘biological window’ of your different body parts, and identifying what you want from your PEMF therapy as a whole, will help you make a decision about what frequencies to incorporate into your PEMF sessions.
Similar to the frequency myth, there is a popular theory propounded by marketers and internet experts that the intensity of the waves emitted by a PEMF machine should be low, in order to mimic the earth’s own waves.
It ignores one of the most important laws of physics, which is that the intensity of a wave (the power per unit) decreases with distance.
So if your PEMF device emits waves with a weak intensity, it will have decreased further by the time it passes through your cells.
This is not to say that low intensities are not beneficial, but any increase in intensity will definitely improve blood oxygenation and microcirculation.
There is also a plethora of research showing that higher-intensity PEMF devices are more effective for several purposes, from inhibiting cancer to deep-tissue healing.
Even if it is just for general health improvement and/or prevention of illness, higher intensities can be better because they do not have negative side effects.
The intensity of waves from a PEMF device is once again lower than the intensity from an MRI machine.
And research has shown time and again that increasing intensity poses no risk to the user.
It may be true that high-intensity PEMF can be more expensive than low; however, unless you are aiming only for mild benefits for your general health, it is a more valuable investment to buy high-intensity devices.
As the waves have more power, even tissues the furthest from the source of radiation can receive the most energy possible.
If superfluous, the cells in your body simply won’t take in more energy, and the wave will pass through without producing an excessive charge in the cells.
Waves can be of a great many forms, and it is heavily debated amongst even experts which one is the best.
Most PEMF systems use either sinusoidal waves, sawtooth waves, or square waves.
But even apart from these, waves of all shapes (rectangles, triangles, ramp waves, random waves, etc.) have been used in clinical research on the efficacy of PEMF for various health issues.
What we can derive from the bulk of the research is that all of these waveforms can benefit the human body and mind, albeit to differing degrees. But there is no single waveform that is essential to getting the best out of your sessions.
A wave that is often touted by PEMF producers and specialists is the square wave—particularly the NASA square wave.
While square waves have been proven to be more useful than most others for particular health issues such as cancer, they are not necessarily the best for all conditions.
As for the NASA square wave, it was never replicated in its exact form after the original experiment.
Subsequent square waves were all different in some way or other, through careful alterations and enhancements.
A good alternative is the sawtooth wave, which typically ramps upwards and then drops sharply.
The harsher shape of the wave is thought to benefit cell energy by effecting the most change.
Meanwhile, sine waves are considered effective because of the opposite: The smooth shape of the wave is thought to resonate with natural waveforms that humans receive and emit, thus encouraging cells to be more accepting of the radiation.
There is substantial evidence to back both claims.
The important point to make here is that there are different waveforms that can benefit you to different degrees, and in different ways.
That is why you should choose your desired waveform with the help of research, by reflecting on your own goals from PEMF, and selecting a waveform that appears to fit your interests best.
There are some misconceptions floating around that certain copper coils are better at creating an electromagnetic field than others.
The biggest myth here is that uninsulated copper ring coils produce purer, less adulterated waves than the insulated copper mesh coils.
A big reason for this is that mesh PEMF systems often use the term “wire” mesh, leaving people to assume that it isn’t made of copper.
But the truth is that there is no other material that can be used for this purpose, so wire meshes are also copper (or at the very least an alloy), albeit in a slightly different format.
Both forms will give you a ‘pure’ electromagnetic field, so there is no reason to shun entirely mesh coil devices.
The difference between the two varieties might be more prominent in the price of the device or its durability, as mesh is both cheaper and more likely to burn out.
But otherwise, either coil is adequate for PEMF use.
PEMF Treatment Protocol
Another noteworthy fact of which you should be aware is that not everybody responds in the same way to the same PEMF session.
Therefore, popularized ideas such as that you should take 8 minute sessions twice a day are not strictly correct.
The general idea is that if you are using only one pulsing frequency, you should aim for several sessions throughout the day that each last for at least 8 to 15 minutes.
This is because your cells can adapt to that single frequency after enough continuous exposure, requiring you to break down exposure time for more efficacy.
On the other hand, if you change the frequency throughout the session, you can enjoy fewer but longer sessions.
It is important to point out here that repeated PEMF over the long term is not higher risk.
Studies have been done in which healthy participants received thousands of pulses over the course of a year or more, and they all conclude that there were no adverse effects noted as a result of the exposure.
Since scientific, peer-reviewed evidence assures us that long-duration PEMF is perfectly safe, you should feel free to design your own treatment protocol based on your needs and expectations.
Richard Hoover is a PEMF expert and content contributor to PEMF Advisor. With a bachelor’s degree in physics and multiple certifications in natural health programs, he is one of the best PEMF experts around.