The Earth’s magnetic field plays a critical role in health and wellness. Each of our body’s cells acts like a battery; they can “lose charge” over time, causing fatigue and inflammation.

Many of people are not aware of this. In the 1960s, scientists at NASA were aware. They worried that when astronauts were outside the Earth’s magnetic field—which creates a “pulse” within our atmosphere called “Schumann resonance”—it could cause bone loss (osteoporosis), fatigue and depression. NASA began using Pulsed ElectroMagnetic Fields (PEMF) during the Gemini missions, and continued right through to the Space Shuttle era. However, the scientists weren’t satisfied that after-mission physicals showed that the astronauts were remarkably maintaining their bone density. They wanted to learn more.

In 2009, after over $3.5 million dollars in research, NASA was awarded a patent for PEMF use to enhance tissue repair in mammals, and to reverse the bone loss experienced by astronauts when they are away from the Earth’s magnetic field.

Today, PEMF is used for more than protecting astronauts in outer space and for more than osteoporosis. The patent mentions “tissue repair,” which means that PEMF does not only prevent damage in the short term, but actually stimulates healing for any number of different and unrelated conditions. These can range from rheumatism to diabetes to chronic pain to fibromyalgia and even bone fractures.

How does PEMF work?

The simple answer is that our bodies run on electricity. All organs depends on electrical energy from the brain and spinal cord; furthermore, all cellsgenerate and use large electrical currents. For example, “gap junctions” allow heart cells in each chamber to contract nearly simultaneously and behave as one. To achieve this, the cell is designed like a battery. The fatty membrane surrounding each cell “collects” ionic charge on each side, like a capacitor, creating a charge difference across the membrane that it is ready in a millisecond’s notice to generate electricity.

What does this look like during injury or sickness? Injured or inflamed tissue is known to store lower charges. When capacitance to hold a charge declines, exchange of nutrients and waste metabolism declines with it. Cells work to restore charge during the healing of a broken bone, a process that NASA found accelerated by PEMF. However, in a chronically inflamed cell, charge may never be restored. This low charge contributes to many of the symptoms we recognize in someone chronically unwell, such as poor stamina, poor sleep, mood disturbances and physical pain. When many cells have low charge, the person will not function optimally.

Like the Earth’s atmosphere, this PEMF electromagnetic energy is harmless; it poses no risk of shocking the patient or increased temperature. Pulsed electromagnetic fields are ultrashort but powerful bursts of voltage electric energy that stimulate individual cells. During PEMF therapy, the body’s tiny batteries recharge through a kind of “cellular exercise.” The battery function of the cell works to clean up on a microscopic level to expel toxins and recoup nutrients. This enhancement of metabolism helps to relieve pain and inflammation; vastly improves microcirculation; and improves bone fractures, wound healing and pain from neuropathy. It cannot, however, be used on patients who are implanted with a battery-powered devices, such as a pacemaker.

Rebooting metabolism with PEMF

PEMF use is not meant to diagnose, treat or cure a single disease. As a therapy, it enhances and optimizes natural tissue healing. In 1979, the FDA approved PEMF specifically for the healing of nonunion fractures after a NASA-funded study at Columbia found significant benefit of this safe, non-invasive treatment. “Nonunion” fractures are those that fail to heal from infection, excessive movement or poor blood supply, making PEMF ideal from athletes to the elderly. Since then, the FDA has cleared magnetic therapy for fusing broken bones, treating resistant depression, and post-operative pain and swelling. While professional sports teams have been early adopters, application for chronic disease benefits are slow to be incorporated in our pharmacologic model of medicine.

A broad application

Proving its widespread benefit for metabolism, PEMF heals depression and diabetic neuropathy in the same way that it heals broken bones. In addition to enhancing microcirculation, it stimulates nerve cells as it does other cells, including the liver and tract of the intestine. This nerve cell stimulation is believed to relieve depression. It also has been proven effective in relieving pain from rheumatoid arthritis and diabetic neuropathy; it even regenerated nerve tissues in research animals. The link here is that diabetic neuropathy is caused by nerve fiber degeneration (or decay). So these diseases, though very different, can both benefit from the painless, harmless stimulation offered by PEMF.

PEMFs benefits are particularly useful in the management of fibromyalgia. Symptoms of this illness include poor circulation, lack of good quality sleep and a vicious cycle of circadian hormone disturbances. By enhancing blood flow, many patients have found early, positive benefit for “brain fog,” digestion and restorative sleep in general.

How to apply PEMF therapy

Knowledgeable practitioners designate a PEMF plan with programs based on “cellular exercise” needs. Medical grade devices allow for fine tailoring of PEMF parameters based on the condition, with personalization of session duration, total hours, pulses frequency and, importantly, magnetic field strength. The treatment for acute injuries will differ from that of chronic ailments. For example, athletes will require more pulses per second than would be appropriate for the elderly. Further, magnetic field strength, a key feature, is best individually personalized.

Luckily, PEMF is no longer exclusively for NASA. Treatments are increasingly available from trained providers across the United States to assist with innovative healing by energizing people at the cellular level.

Cortney Katz, PA-C, CFMP, is a certified functional medicine provider at Wave Integrative Medical Center, located at 326 West Main Street, Suite 108, Milford, CT. Connect at 203-442-6740 and

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