PEMF therapy has been evaluated for over 60 years, including a substantial NASA study conducted in the mid 1960s. Now, additional research has further evaluated the effect of PEMF therapy on bone repair in clinical trials, concluding that the use of PEMF therapy both daily, and as a periodic treatment modality to improve and speed bone repair is extremely effective, and may be useful in more effectively treating bone loss and degeneration. The study also sought to determine how PEMF therapy is best used, and how clinicians can utilize timing and application in their patients’ favor when enlisting the intervention.
The Research Team
The research team was made up of a team of researchers funded and employed by OrthoFix, a Texas-based company that provides solutions for medical professionals and their patients who are suffering from damage, bone loss, and other joint and bone issues. The research team fully disclosed their funding source and subsequent employment status with OrthoFix, and utilized facilities at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine.
The team was chosen for its ability to adequately cast bone mineralization components onto teflon casts, which were then evaluated for their ability to conduct the osteogenic process. With help from external laboratories, researchers were able to conduct multiple steps of verification and investigation regarding the success (or lack) of applied PEMF on bone casts.
The trials, conducted in 2020, evaluated the effect PEMF application had on bone remineralization and subsequent growth in mice. The study had three subsets of participating bone casts. The first was exposed to PEMF therapy for four hours for the duration of the study, the second was exposed to PEMF therapy for a period of several days, with breaks in between, and the third was the trial’s control, with no exposure to PEMF therapy, at all. These groups were selected both to evaluate the efficacy of PEMF therapy and to evaluate the best possible way to administer therapy.
The study was entered into primarily to determine how effective PEMF therapy was in treating bone issues overall, as previous research studies have focused on specific types of bone damage. For this reason, bone was extracted from the host and a model capable of independent osteogenesis was produced. The production of an independent culture allowed the research team to evaluate how PEMF therapy intervenes in bones that have experienced loss or damage, but are still fully intact, and capable of effective osteogenesis.
The study was developed and designed to make up for the deficits in previous clinical trials of PEMF, studying its effect on specific bone damage, as it demonstrated the ability of PEMF therapy to intervene and improve the regeneration of bones in potentially all applications, rather than supporting the use of PEMF therapy in a select number of bone density concerns or fractures.
At the end of the trial, the researchers concluded that PEMF therapy was an effective form of therapy to increase bone healing timing and strength. In a move unrivaled in other PEMF therapy studies, the researchers discovered the presence of a lag in PEMF efficacy, or a period of time during which PEMF therapy appeared not to be working, followed by a spur in healing and improvement. This discovery may be small, but can provide a great deal of insight into PEMF therapy as a whole, and how it operates, as it suggests that a: PEMF therapy might not demonstrate immediate results, but will be working as it is supposed to, and b: PEMF therapy may work synergistically with the body’s own natural systems and timing, spurring healing according to the natural rhythms and timelines of the human body.
The results were also important in the evaluation of how and when to utilize PEMF therapy, because the researchers determined that PEMF therapy is best used at specific times in the healing of bone fractures and after bone loss—information that studies had not previously evaluated. Equipped with the results of OrthoFix’s study, clinicians can more effectively apply PEMF therapy to individuals who have experienced bone loss, a fracture, or another type of bone damage.
Finally, the results of the OrthoFix study can help future researchers and clinicians evaluate the current use of PEMF therapy, and determine the most likely course of action to facilitate healing. In bone healing, the research suggests that PEMF therapy is best utilized quickly after the bone breaks, in order to help the body most effectively engage in osteogenesis. This could influence the application of PEMF therapy in other healing strategies, as timing could play an important role in maximizing PEMF therapy efficacy.
This Study’s Effects on the Future of PEMF
OrthoFix’s study on PEMF therapy efficacy is a vital component in the future of PEMF therapy and its use in bone regeneration and reconstruction efforts. Previous studies focused primarily on the efficacy of PEMF therapy in treating specific fractures, and did not fully evaluate the ability of PEMF to speed and improve bone regeneration in animal models. OrthoFix’s study demonstrated PEMF therapy’s ability to improve bone remineralization—both in terms of the time required to heal fractures and improve bone loss, and in terms of the strength of the bone being healed. This study demonstrates with proficiency the ability of PEMF therapy to successfully treat bone damage and loss overall, rather than limiting to several specific, narrow applications.
Although the purpose of the study was to demonstrate that PEMF therapy is capable to stimulating bone repair, the study was also valuable for its dive into how PEMF therapy works, and how it can be expected to function in a variety of bone environments. This is important in the study of PEMF therapy as a whole, as much of the science behind the efficacy of PEMF therapy—in applications that extend far beyond bone repair—remains unknown and largely misunderstood, if it is understood at all. The OrthoFit study demonstrated the different pathways that PEMF therapy uses to support the body’s healing mechanisms, which provides a great deal of insight into the overall use and efficacy of the therapy.
Link to study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7861434/