What is the history of PEMF therapy?

The healing benefits of magnets have been known for thousands of years, with magnetic therapy practised in China as early as 2000 B.C. In the western world the use of electricity and magnetism grew throughout the healthcare field in the late 19th century, featuring in medical textbooks as therapeutic alternatives for a variety of conditions. This popularity fell out of favour following the Flexner report in 1910, which established science as the basis for medicine and clinical education and led to the overhaul of medical schools across the USA. Electrotherapy was subsequently excluded from medical practice. The rise of political medicine that followed resulted in an almost complete dominance by the pharmaceutical industry in much of the western world for the next sixty years.

From the 1940s onwards, however, the PEMF industry developed elsewhere. Beginning in Japan following the second world war, the use of magnets became increasingly common. Internationally regarded acupuncturist Yoshio Manaka incorporated bio-electrical treatment with acupuncture, whilst others began generating electromagnetic waveforms by experimenting with varying electrical currents.

PEMF therapy also blossomed across Europe, with the development of several magnetic therapy devices between 1960 and 1985. The system invented by french scientist Antoine Priore to address tumours and infectious diseases was particularly significant. In 1982, Bulgarian Nencho Todorov published ‘Magnetotherapy with Low-Frequency Electromagnetic Field’, the first book on modern electromagnetic field therapy. Elsewhere, PEMF therapy advanced greatly within the Soviet Union during this time, and is still widely used throughout the eastern european healthcare system today.

The fall of the Soviet Union in the 1970s enabled PEMF technology to become available to the west, and the therapeutic effects of low level electromagnetic fields became increasingly documented across North America. The work of Dr Andrew Bassett detailing the use of PEMF therapy on non-union bone fractures led to FDA approval of this procedure in 1979. Approval then followed for the treatment of pain some ten years later. In 2003, NASA concluded an extensive four year study, highlighting the tissue healing and regeneration benefits of very low frequency and intensity PEMF technology. More recently there has been a significant growth in the devices available for home use, together with game changing technological innovations from the world leading manufacturers, making the benefits of this revolutionary technology increasingly accessible and ever more portable.

There have been many individuals who have helped shape the PEMF industry we all benefit from today. Here are the five that we believe have been some of the most influential and why.

Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla

The birth of electrotherapy…
1. Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) – Born in Yugoslavia, Tesla emigrated to the United States in 1884. He was an eccentric genius and his work as an inventor and researcher led him to the discovery of the rotating magnetic field, the basis of most alternating-current machinery. Tesla designed the “Tesla Coil” in 1891, which is considered his most significant invention. This was used to great effect for healing and pain relief, giving rise to a whole new branch of medicine in the form of electrotherapy.

Albert Szent-Gyorgyi
Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

Proteins as semi conductors…
2. Albert Szent-Gyorgyi (1893-1986) – In 1941, the Nobel Prize winner gave the Korányi Memorial Lecture in Budapest, Hungary. The subject of his presentation described the fact that proteins behaved as semiconductors, and that mobile electrons were capable of transferring energy and information from location to location around the body. Although his ideas were initially rejected, they were later shown to be true. It was also discovered that water played a crucial role in the ability of proteins to act as semiconductors, making them capable of transferring information at tremendous speeds. When considered in the context of how modern PEMF therapy exerts an influence on the human body, Szent-Gyorgyi’s work provided a ground breaking insight.

Dr Robert Becker
Dr Robert Otto Becker

Electricity controls chemistry…
3. Dr Robert Becker (1923-2008) – Dr Robert O Becker was hugely influential in the field of electromedicine, with his research spanning a five decade period. He was perhaps best known for the book, The Body Electric, which was published in 1998 and detailed his experiences using bioelectromagnetics. During his career he described a dual nervous system, composed of the classical digital nerve network, and a more ancient perineural system. He demonstrated that the latter was a distinct communication system, which played a crucial role in controlling tissue injury repair. His later research was largely ahead of his time as he warned of the potential dangers of EMFs, a subject that has since developed far greater relevance in today’s modern electronic environment.

Dr Andrew Bassett
Dr Andrew Bassett

The PEMF Pioneer…
4. Dr Andrew Bassett (1924-1994 ) – New York orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Andrew Bassett was one of the leading figures in PEMF medical research. Like Becker, much of Bassett’s work focussed on the field of bioelectromagnetics and in 1962 they worked together studying the electrophysiological properties of bone. Bassett subsequently devoted much of his career to both clinical research and commercial enterprise by exploring the therapeutic use of PEMF therapy, most prominently focusing on non-union fractures, wound healing, nerve regeneration, and tissue repair.

Dr. William Ross Adey
Dr. William Ross Adey

The ‘Biological window’…
5. Dr Ross Adey (1922-2004) – Adey, an Australian born professor of anatomy and physiology, introduced the term “biological window” in a 1976 paper when working with Suzanne Bawin. Adey’s research measured the calcium output of chick and cat brain cells in order to demonstrate that this effect could only be triggered using very low frequency and magnetic field intensity ranges or ‘windows’. His work particularly highlighted an optimal frequency window of between 6Hz – 20Hz. Since this initial discovery, the concept of both frequency and amplitude windows have received significant scientific support within the energy medicine literature and form a key foundation for the beneficial effects of low frequency and intensity PEMF therapy.

The history of PEMF therapy has been shaped by many exceptional individuals. Together they have paved the way for an exciting new chapter, and the next generation of leaders and innovators, in this fascinating industry.

To find out more about the health benefits of low frequency and intensity PEMF therapy please visit www.emppad.com.

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