Because every molecule, cell, organ in our body emits
and is sensitive to electromagnetic fields, our biochemistry is influenced
by our electromagnetic nature. As such, efforts to develop new therapies
based solely on dysfunctional biochemistry without considering this nature
ultimately will be limited. It is like replacing worn auto tires without
aligning the wheels that caused the tires to get worn in the first place,
i.e., you need to consider both.
Although there is no tissue in which our
electromagnetic nature is more evident than MS-attacked nervous tissue,
most therapeutic efforts have emphasized the disease’s overt physical
symptoms associated with demyelination and minimized, until recently, the
role of its less understood, underlying electromagnetic dynamics.
Electromagnetic fields influence many biochemical and
physiological processes. Although the specific mechanisms by which such
fields alleviate MS symptoms remain undefined, many possibilities exist.
For example, through influencing the flow of charged ions through
membrane-transversing, protein channels, electromagnetic fields may
enhance signal conduction in dysfunctional neurons. In another example,
magnetic fields alter our neuro- and immunochemistry, both of which are
affected by MS.
Finally, electromagnetic fields influence the levels
of various MS-altered hormones. In this regard, Dr. R. Sandyk (Touro
College, NY) has intriguingly suggested that a key player in the disease’s
etiology is the brain’s all-important, magnetically and light-sensitive
pineal gland, which secretes hormones (e.g., melatonin) that affect
the entire body (J. Alternative & Complementary Medicine, 1997;
3(3): pp 267-290).
The epidemiology, pathogenesis, clinical
manifestations, and disease course can all be correlated with this gland.
For example, most individuals with MS have calcified (i.e., dysfunctional)
pineal glands. If MS demyelination is a secondary consequence of pineal
dysfunction, Sandyk believes research efforts should focus on therapeutic
interventions, such as magnetic therapy, that enhance pineal functioning.
[Interestingly, quadriplegics, but not paraplegics, also have
dysfunctional pineal glands (Zeitzer JM et al. J. Clinical
Endocrinology & Metabolism, 2000; 85(6): pp 2189 –2196)]
The therapeutic interventions reviewed below use
pulsed electromagnetic fields in which the electromagnet is turned on
and off at a defined frequency. For example, a field that is pulsed 25
times per second has a frequency of 25 cycles/second or Hertz.
Field strength is defined by gauss. For
reference, the Earth’s magnetic field is about 0.5 gauss, a refrigerator
magnet is about 10 gauss, and some medical applications, such as MRIs, can
exceed 10,000 gauss. However, because size counts, Earth’s small field
profoundly influences life, including MS expression.
The following studies use weak electromagnetic
fields, which scientists believe can initiate physiological responses that
much stronger fields often cannot. These researchers have postulated a
“window effect,” in which these responses may only be initiated at a
unique combination of frequency, intensity, and polarity relative to the
Earth’s magnetic field.
1) In 1987, Dr. A. Guseo (Hungary) treated 124
patients with a pulsating (2-50 pulses/sec) electromagnetic device (50-70
gauss in strength) placed on the upper and lower spine and lower
extremities (J. Bioelectricity, 1987; 6(1): pp 23-35). Twenty were
enrolled in a double-blind study, a research design in which neither the
patient nor doctor knew who received the active versus inactive placebo
device. Changes in impairment were measured with the Expanded Disability
Status Scale (EDSS), a frequently used MS-assessment tool, before and
after 15 daily treatments. Seventy percent of the treatment group showed
improvement compared to only 20% in the placebo group. When the placebo
group was later treated, 80% improved, as did the 104 remaining patients
who were not enrolled in the double-blind trial. Main improvement areas
included spasticity, pain, bladder control, and endurance.
2) In 1997, Sandyk reported on the treatment of 16
patients (no controls) with a 9-volt, battery-powered device placed on the
top of the head (J. Alternative & Complementary Medicine, 1997;
3(4): pp 365-386). This device generated a pulsed (2-7 pulses/sec)
electromagnetic field that was 10 million-fold weaker than the Earth’s
background field. The magnetic field was administered 1-3 times a week for
10-45 minutes. Using the EDSS and additional patient-reported performance
scales, improvement was observed in all subjects.
3) Also in 1997, Dr. T. Richards (University of
Washington) et al. published the results of a double-blind study
evaluating an electromagnetic device developed by the Enermed Corporation
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and approved in that country for
migraine and MS treatment (J. Alternative & Complementary Medicine,
1997; 3(1): pp 21-29).
watch-sized device, powered by a 3-volt battery, pulses a weak field
(.05-.1 gauss) between 4-13 times per second. The specific pulsing
frequencies were programmed based on the unique electromagnetic energy
profile emitted by each patient.
This profile is measured by a bioelectric frequency
developed to help cure migraines, a common MS condition (Walpole S.
Int. J. Altern Comp Med, 1993 Oct: pp 23-26). This device measures the
body’s electromagnetic emissions, including brainwaves (e.g., alpha, beta,
theta, delta), the composition of which depends upon one’s specific mental
and, in some cases, disease state.
MS, there are often gaps in alpha brainwaves (7-12 Hz), which are waves
associated with conscious physical relaxation. The analyzer determines the
frequencies in which these gaps occur.
Based on this determination, the Enermed device is
specifically programmed to emit energy at the deficient frequencies.
In a National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded
study, 30 subjects randomly received either a magnetically active or
inactive device (photo). The device was taped to one of three acupuncture
points located on the shoulder, back, or hip for 10-24 hours per day for
A patient-reported performance composite scale -
including bladder-control, cognitive-function, fatigue, mobility,
spasticity, and vision elements - showed statistically significant
improvement after treatment. In addition, treatment improved cognitive
function during a language task as measured by increased alpha-wave
4) This year, Dr. M. Lappin et al. published the
results of a larger double-blind study evaluating the Enermed device’s
effectiveness in 117 patients (Alternative Therapies, July/Aug
2003; 9: pp 38-48). Subjects were treated with an active or placebo device
for four weeks, followed by a two-week washout period in which no
treatment was administered. After this washout period, the initial placebo
group received treatment and vice versa for the original treatment group.
The device was taped to the skin 24-hours a day over
the brachial plexus, a nerve complex just below the collarbone.
Changes in impairment were assessed by a variety of
measures, including scales based on the MS Quality of Life Inventory
developed by the Consortium of MS Centers. Study results demonstrated
statistically significant improvements in MS-related fatigue and overall
quality of life, more ambiguous results for spasticity, and no effects for
Research suggests that pulsed electromagnetic fields
- although not a cure - can alleviate some MS symptoms, and, as such,
enhance quality of life without the side effects associated with
pharmaceutical approaches. Although the reviewed studies demonstrated
positive outcomes, they had somewhat varied outcomes, which could be due
to the specific device, the study design, sample size (e.g., more subjects
may statistically demonstrate subtler effects), treatment duration, type
of MS, medication history, etc.
Cumulatively, however, the studies suggest that
electromagnetic therapy has considerable potential for expanding the
healing spectrum of people with MS.
Adapted from an article appearing in Paraplegia News,
December 2003 (For subscriptions, contact www.pn-magazine.com).