Pulsed Electromagnetic Fields: A Treatment for Pain and Inflammation

At Walking Paws Rehab, we utilize pulsed electromagnetic field therapy in our sessions. We have ASSISI loop beds in each treatment room and in the waiting area. While patients are being massaged, stretched, examined, or receiving mobilizations they may receive their treatment. Treatment times are often around 15 minutes. Frequency depends on the injury. If interested, we can even set you up with a home ASSISI loop unit if you would like to pursue a protocol for your pet’s injury.

The History Behind PEMF:

Therapeutic electromagnetic fields were first designed in the 1950s. However, these earlier models would heat tissue and were not very effective. A Nobel Laureate then designed the algorithm to pulse an electromagnetic field. By pulsing the electromagnetic field, one could decrease swelling and reduced pain without heating tissue. The technology was first used amongst plastic surgeons for pain reduction, swelling reduction, and to speed up wound healing. Then it gained popularity amongst orthopedic surgeons to improve bone healing. Now that more studies are evolving, PEMF is being utilized more by pain specialists. In humans PEMF is FDA approved for post operative pain and edema (swelling). The technology is now making its way into veterinary medicine

How does PEMF Work?

An electrical current is made within a circular coil that lies within the ASSISI loop. This electric current creates an electromagnetic field that radiates about 12 inches from the coil. The electromagnetic field then passes through the body. When the PEMF enters the body it increases the binding of calcium to a molecule called calmodulin. When this occurs it modulates the release of nitric oxide from a molecule called eNOS.

Nitric oxide can then:

  • Decrease inflammation
  • Increase blood flow
  • Increase lymph flow
  • Increase growth factors that can:
    • promote angiogenesis (increase blood vessel growth)
    • increase collagen production
    • promote remodeling through recruiting stem cells

What Conditions does PEMF treat?

PEMF can be utilized to treat any condition that is painful or inflammatory. Some examples include:

  • Post surgical incisions
  • Wounds
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Elbow and hip dysplasia
  • Tendon or ligament Injuries including tendinopathies and cranial cruciate ligament tears
  • Muscle strains
  • Fractures
  • Neurologic disorders such as intervertebral disc disease, degenerative myelopathy, wobblers, fibrocartilagenous embolisms, spinal cord injuries, or peripheral neuropathies.

Research Studies Behind PEMF

PEMF research is easily found in human medicine. However, over the last few years more research articles are popping up in veterinary medicine on the use of PEMF therapies in neurologic and orthopedic conditions, along with anxiety.

PEMF for the treatment of Intervertebral Disc Disease:

Dr. Alvarez completed a double-blind placebo-controlled trial to evaluate targeted PEMF administration to dogs who had undergone hemilaminectomy. In this study, 53 dogs were randomly selected to receive targeted PEMF or sham treatment postoperatively. Results showed that during the first week post-op, the need for pain medications was 1.8 times greater in the sham group than the treatment group and at 6 weeks post-surgery, wound healing (evaluated using VAS and wound evaluation scoring) was significantly improved in the treatment group.1

PEMF for the treatment of Pain Post Operatively:

Dr. Natasha Olby, a neurologist at the NCSU School of Veterinary Medicine, also published in The Journal of Neurotrauma the results of her clinical trial, examining the effect of targeted Pulsed Electromagnetic Field (tPEMF™) therapy on post-op pain and locomotor recovery in dogs with acute, severe, intervertebral disc herniation (IVDE). Her study looked at biomarkers for spinal cord disease as well as pain assessment and neurologic function and found that in treated dogs, tPEMF significantly reduced incision-associated pain. In addition, dogs in the active treatment group had significantly lower GFAP concentrations and recovered foot placement better than those in the placebo group.2

For further research articles, please visit Assisi Animal Health for their latest clinical trials.
  • Alvarez LX, McCue J, Lam NK, Fox P, Gulce A. Effect of targeted PEMF therapy on canine post-operative hemilaminectomy: a double- blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial, Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association. Accepted for publication May 21, 2018. Planned publication March/April 2019.
  • N Zidan, J Fenn, E Griffith, P Early, C Mariani, K Munana, J Guevar, N Olby. The Effect of Electromagnetic Fields on Post-Operative Pain and Locomotor Recovery in Dogs with Acute, Severe Thoracolumbar Intervertebral Disc Extrusion: A Randomized Placebo-Controlled, Prospective Clinical Trial.Journal of Neurotrauma 2018, Vol. 5, No. 15
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