Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Headache Treatment with Pulsing Electromagnetic Fields: A Literature Review

Abstract

Pulsing electromagnetic field (PEMF) therapy may be a viable form of complementary and alternative medicine. Clinical applications include the treatment of fractures, wounds, and heart disease. More recent applications involve treatment of recurrent headache disorders. This paper reviews available studies investigating PEMF for headache management. Possible mechanisms for effects (neurochemical, electrophysical, and cardiovascular) are discussed. The available data suggest that PEMF treatment for headache merits further study. Suggestions for future research are provided.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

References

  1. Andrasik, F. (2001). Assessment of patients with headaches. In D. C. Turk & R. Melzack (Eds.), Handbook of pain assessment (pp. 454–474, 2nd Ed.). NY: Guilford Press.

  2. Andrasik, F. (2007). What does the evidence show? Efficacy of behavioural treatments for recurrent headaches in adults. Neurological Sciences, 28, S70–S77.

  3. Andrasik, F., Lipchik, G. L., McCrory, D. C., & Wittrock, D. A. (2005). Outcome measurement in behavioral headache research: Headache parameters and psychosocial outcomes. Headache, 45, 429–437.

  4. Andrasik, F., & Rime, C. (2007). Can behavioural therapy influence neuromodulation? Neurological Sciences, 28, S124–S129.

  5. Aaron, R. K., Ciombor, D. M., & Jolly, G. (1989). Stimulation of experimental endochondral ossification by low-energy pulsing electromagnetic fields. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, 4, 227–233.

  6. Aaron, R. K., Lennox, D., Bunce, G. E., & Ebert, T. (1989). The conservative treatment of osteonecrosis of the femoral head: A comparison of pulsed electromagnetic fields and core decompression. Seventeenth open meeting of the hip society. Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research, 249, 209.

  7. Barclay, V., Collier, R., & Jones, A. (1983). Treatment of various hand; injuries by pulsed electromagnetic energy. Physiotherapy, 69, 186–188.

  8. Bassett, C. A., Mitchell, S. N., & Gaston, S. R. (1982). Pulsing electromagnetic field treatment in united fractures and failed arthrodeses. Journal of the American Medical Association, 247, 623–628.

  9. Bassett, L. S., Pawluk, R. J., & Becker, R. O. (1964). Effects of electric currents on bone in vivo. Nature, 204, 652.

  10. Bellossi, A., & Desplaces, A. (1991). Effect of an 9 mT pulsed magnetic field on C3H/Bi female mice with mammary carcinoma: A comparison between the 12 Hz and the 460 Hz frequencies. In Vivo, 5, 39–40.

  11. Bigliani, L. U., Rosenwasser, M. P., Caulo, N., Schink, M. M., & Bassett, C. A. (1983). The use of pulsing electromagnetic fields to achieve arthrodesis of the knee following failed total knee arthroplasty. A preliminary report. Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery–American Volume, 65, 480–485.

  12. Borsalino, G., Bagnacani, M., Bettati, E., Fornaciari, F., Rocchi, R., Uluhogian, S., et al. (1988). Electrical stimulation of human femoral intertrochanteric osteotomies. Double-blind study. Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research, 237, 256–263.

  13. Cane, V., Botti, P., Farneti, D., & Soana, S. (1991). Electromagnetic stimulation of bone: A histomorphometric study. Journal of Orthopaedic Research, 9, 908–917.

  14. Capanna, R., Donati, D., Masetti, C., Manfrini, M., Panozzo, A., Cadossi, R., et al. (1994). Effect of electromagnetic fields on patients undergoing massive bone graft following bone tumor resection. A double blind study. Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research, 306, 213–221.

  15. Colson, N. J., Lea, R. A., Quinlan, S., & Griffiths, L. R. (2006). The role of vascular and hormonal genes in migraine susceptibility. Molecular Genetics and Metabolism, 88, 107–113.

  16. Das Sarkar, S, & Bassett, C. A. (1991). Healing of nonunion of a fractured lateral condyle of the humerus by pulsing electromagnetic induction. Contemporary Orthopaedics, 22, 47–51.

  17. Di Silvestre, M., & Savini, R. (1992). Pulsing electromagnetic fields (PEMFs) in spinal fusion: preliminary clinical results. La Chirurgia Degli Organi di Movimento, 77, 289–294.

  18. Dolgikh, V. V., Bimbaev, A. B., Bairova, T. A., & Duibanova, N. V. (2005). Impulse low-intensity electromagnetic field in the treatment of adolescents with essential arterial hypertension. Voprosy Kurortologii, Fizioterapii, i Lechebnoĭ Fizicheskoĭ Kultury, 6, 13–15.

  19. Duma-Drzewinska, A., & Buczynski, A. Z. (1978). Pulsed high frequency currents (Diapulse) applied in treatment of bed-sores. Polski Tygodnik Lekarski (Warsaw), 33, 885–887.

  20. Erdman, W. (1960). Peripheral blood flow measurements during application of pulsed high frequency currents. American Journal of Orthopaedics, 2, 196–197.

  21. Ernst, E., & Resch, K. L. (1995). The “optional cross-over design” for randomized clinical trials. Fundamental & Clinical Pharmacology, 9, 508–511.

  22. Fischer, G., Pelka, R. B., & Barovic, J. (2005). Adjuvant treatment of knee osteoarthritis with weak pulsing magnetic fields: Results of a placebo-controlled trial prospective clinical trial. Zeitschrift für Orthopädie und ihre Grenzgebiete, 143, 544–550.

  23. Ganelina I. E. (1994). Electromagnetic radiation of extremely high frequencies in complex therapy for severe stenocardia. Millimetrovie Volni v Biologii I Meditcine, 4, 17–21.

  24. Gershon, A. A., Dannon, P. N., & Grunhaus, L. (2003). Transcranial magnetic stimulation in the treatment of depression. American Journal of Psychiatry, 160, 835–845.

  25. Gorji, A. (2001). Spreading depression: A review of the clinical relevance. Brain Research Reviews, 38, 33–60.

  26. Gorpinchenko, I. I. (1995). The use of magnetic devices in treating sexual disorders in men. Likarśka Sprava, 3–4, 95–97.

  27. Grant, G., Cadossi, R., & Steinberg, G. (1994). Protection against focal cerebral ischemia following exposure to pulsed EMF. Bioelectromagnetics, 15, 205–216.

  28. Grazzi, L., & Andrasik, F. (2006). Medication-overuse headache: Description, treatment, and relapse prevention. Current Pain and Headache Reports, 10, 71–77.

  29. Grunner, O. (1985). Cerebral use of a pulsating magnetic field in neuropsychiatry patients with long-term headache. EEG EMG Zeitschrift für Elektroenzephalographie, Elektromyographie und verwandte Gebiete, 16, 227–230.

  30. Gunalp, B., Ozguven, M., Ozturk, E., Ercenk, B., & Bayhan, H. (1992). Role of bone scanning in the management of non-united fractures: A clinical study. European Journal of Nuclear Medicine, 19, 845–847.

  31. Hanke, W., Wiedemann, M., & de Lima, V. M. (2001). Control of the excitability of neuronal tissue by weak external forces. Faraday Discuss, 120, 237–248.

  32. Headache classification subcommittee of the International Headache Society. (2004). The international classification of headache disorders: 2nd edition. Cephalalgia, 24(supplement 1), 1–160.

  33. Heller, R., Jaroszeski, M., Perrott, R., Messina, J., & Gilbert, R. (1997). Effective treatment of B16 melanoma by direct delivery of bleomycin using electrochemotherapy. Melanoma Research, 7, 10–18.

  34. Hirata, M., Kusuzaki, K., Takeshita, H., Hashiguchi, S., Hirasawa, Y., & Ashihara, T. (2001). Drug resistance modification using pulsing electromagnetic field stimulation of multidrug resistant mouse osteosarcoma cell line. Anticancer Research, 21(1A), 317–320.

  35. Ieran, M., Zaffuto, S., Bagnacani, M., Annovi, M., Moratti, A., & Cadossi, R. (1990). Effect of low frequency pulsing electromagnetic fields on skin ulcers of venous origin in humans: A double-blind study. Journal of Orthopaedic Research, 8, 276–282.

  36. Ijiri, K., Matsunaga, S., Fukuyama, K., Maeda, S., Sakou, T., Kitano, M., et al. (1996). The effect of pulsing electromagnetic field on bone ingrowth into a porous coated implanted. Melanoma Research, 16(5A), 2853–2856.

  37. Institute of Medicine (United States). (2001). Crossing the quality chasm: A new health system for the 21st century. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press.

  38. Institute of Medicine (United States). (2005). Committee on the use of complementary and alternative medicine in the U.S. complementary and alternative medicine in the United States. Washington, D.C.: Academic Press.

  39. Ionescu, A., Ionescu, D., Milinescu, S., Talnal, E., & Vireu, S. (1982). Study of efficiency of diapulse therapy on the dynamics of enzymes in burned wound. Presented at the Sixth International Congress on Burns.

  40. Ito, H., & Bassett, C. A. (1983). Effect of weak, pulsing electromagnetic fields on neural regeneration in the rat. Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research, 181, 283–290.

  41. Ito, H., & Shirai, Y. (2001). The efficacy of ununited tibial fracture treatment using pulsing electromagnetic fields: Relation to biological activity on nonunion bone ends. Journal of Nippon Medical School, 68, 149–153.

  42. Ito, H., Shirai. Y., & Gembun, Y. (2000). A case of congenital pseudarthrosis of the tibia treated with pulsing electromagnetic fields. 17-year follow-up. Journal of Nippon Medical School, 67, 198–201.

  43. Itoh, M., Montemayor, J., Matsumoto, E., Eason, A., Lee, M., & Folk, F. (1991). Accelerated would healing of pressure ulcers by electromagnetic field (Diapulse). Decubitus, 4, 24–34.

  44. Iurlov, V. M., Eksareva, T. A., & Dolodarenko, V. F. (1989). The Efficacy of the use of low-frequency electromagnetic fields in chronic bronchitis. Voenno-meditsinskiĭ Zhurnal, 3, 35–36.

  45. Jorgensen, W. A., Frome, B. M., & Wallach, C. (1994). Electrochemical therapy of pelvic pain: effects of pulsed electromagnetic fields (PEMF) on tissue trauma. The European Journal of Surgery. Supplement, 574, 83–86.

  46. Kahanovitz, N., Arnoczky, S. P., Nemzek, J., & Shores, A. (1994). The effect of electromagnetic pulsing on posterior lumbar spinal fusions in dogs. Spine, 19, 705–709.

  47. Kaplan, E., & Weinstock, R. (1968). Clinical evaluation of diapulse as adjunctive therapy following foot surgery. Journal of the American Podiatry Association, 58, 218–221.

  48. Karlov, V. A., Rodshtat, I. V., Kalashnikov, I. D., Kitaeva, L. V., & Khokhlov, I. K. (1991). Experience with using extremely high frequency radiotherapy of the millimeter wave range in cerebrovascular disorders. Sovetskaia Meditsina, 3, 20–21.

  49. Karpukhin, I. V., & Bogomol’nii, V. A. (1996). Local vacuum-magnetotherapy of impotency patients. Voprosy Kurortologii, Fizioterapii, i Lechebnoĭ Fizicheskoĭ Kultury, 2, 38–40.

  50. Katsarava, Z., & Jensen, R. (2007). Medication-overuse headache: Where are we now? Current Opinions in Neurology, 20, 326–330.

  51. Kniazeva, T. A., Otto, M. P., Markarov, G. S., Donova, O. M., & Markarova, I. S. (1994). The efficacy of low-intensity exposures in hypertension. Voprosy Kurortologii, Fizioterapii, i Lechebnoĭ Fizicheskoĭ Kultury, 1, 8–9.

  52. Krillov, I. B., Suchkova, Z. V., Lastushkin, A. V., Sigaev, A. A., & Neghaeva, T. I. (1996). Magnetotherapy in the comprehensive treatment of vascular complications of diabetes mellitus. Klinicheskaia Meditsina (Mosk), 74, 39–41.

  53. Lake, A. E. III. (2006). Medication overuse headache: Biobehavioral issues and solutions. Headache, 46(Suppl 3), S88–S97.

  54. Lappin, M. S. (2004). Non-invasive pulsed electromagnetic therapy for migraine and multiple sclerosis. In P. J. Rosch & M. Markov (Eds.), Bioelectromagnetic medicine. New York: Marcel Dekker Publishing.

  55. Lappin, M. S., Lawrie, F. W., & Richards, T. L. (2003). Effects of pulsed electromagnetic therapy on multiple sclerosis fatigue and quality of life: A double-blind, placebo controlled trial. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 9, 38–48.

  56. Lauritzen, M. (2001). Cortical spreading depression in migraine. Cephalalgia, 21, 757–760.

  57. Leão, A. A. P. (1944a). Pial circulation and spreading depression of activity in the cerebral cortex. Journal of Neurophysiology, 7, 391–396.

  58. Leão, A. A. P. (1944b). Spreading depression of activity in the cerebral cortex. Journal of Neurophysiology, 7, 359–390.

  59. Lente, R. W. (1859). Cases of un-united fracture treated by electricity. New York State Journal of Medicine, 5, 317.

  60. Lin, Y., Nishimura, R., Nozaki, K., Sasaki, N., Kadosawa, T., Goto, N., et al. (1992). Effects of pulsing electromagnetic fields on the ligament healing in rabbits. The Journal of Veterinary Medical Science, 54, 1017–1022.

  61. Lin, Y., Nishimura, R., Nozaki, K., Sasaki, N., Kadosawa, T., Goto, N., et al. (1993). Collagen production and maturation at the experimental ligament defect stimulated by pulsing electromagnetic fields in rabbits. The Journal of Veterinary Medical Science, 55, 527–531.

  62. Long, L., Huntley, A., & Ernst, E. (2001). Which complementary and alternative therapies benefit which conditions? A survey of the opinions of 223 professional organizations. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 9, 178–185.

  63. Matsunaga, S., Sakou, T., & Ijiri, K. (1996). Osteogenesis by pulsing electromagnetic fields (PEMFs): Optimum stimulation setting. In Vivo, 10, 351–356.

  64. Merikangas, K. R., & Rasmussen, B. K. (2000). Migraine comorbidity. In J. Olesen, P. Tfelt-Hansen, & K. M. A. Welch (Eds.), The headaches (pp. 235–240, 2nd Ed.). Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

  65. Mishima, S. (1988). The effect of long-term pulsing electromagnetic field stimulation on experimental osteoporosis of rats. Journal of UOEH, 10, 31–45.

  66. Miyagi, N., Sato, K., Rong, Y., Yamamura, S., Katagiri, H., Kobayashi, K., et al. (2000). Effects of PEMF on a murine osteosarcoma cell line: Drug-resistant (P-glycoprotein-positive) and non-resistant cells. Bioelectromagnetics, 21, 112–121.

  67. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). (2000). Expanding horizons of healthcare: Five-year strategic plan 2001–2005 (NIH Publication No. 01-5001). Washington, D.C.: United States Department of Health and Human Services.

  68. O’Connor, M., Bentall, R., & Monahan, J. (1990). Emerging electromagnetic medicine. New York: Springer-Verlag.

  69. Okada, Y. C., Lauritzen, M., & Nicholson, C. (1988). Magnetic field associated with spreading depression: A model for the detection of migraine. Brain Research, 442, 185–190.

  70. Omote, Y. (1988). An experimental attempt to potentiate therapeutic effects of combined use of pulsing magnetic fields and antitumor agents. Nippon Geka Gassai Sasshi, 89, 1155–1166.

  71. Orlov, L. L., Alekseeva, N. P., Slutskii, I. I., Galuza, G. I., & Chogovadze, V. A. (1986). Various humoral factors regulating blood pressure in patients with hypertension during treatment by an impulse magnetic field. Kardiologiia, 26, 56–60.

  72. Oschman, J. L. (2004). Recent developments in bioelectromagnetic medicine. In P. J. Rosch & M. S. Markov (Eds.), Bioelectromagnetic medicine. New York: Macel Dekker, Inc.

  73. Pasquinelli, P., Petrini, M., Mattii, L., Galimberti, S., Saviozzi, M., & Malvaldi, G. (1993). Biological effect of PEMF (pulsing electromagnetic field): An attempt to modify cell resistance to anticancer agents. Journal of Environmental Pathology Toxicology and Oncology, 12, 193–197.

  74. Pelka, R. B., Jaenicke, C., & Gruenwald, J. (2001). Impulse magnetic-field therapy for migraine and other headaches: A double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Advances in Therapy, 18, 101–109.

  75. Pennington, G., Danley, D., Sumko, M., Bucknkell, A., & Nelson, J. (1993). Pulsed, non-thermal, high-frequency electromagnetic energy (Diapulse) in the treatment of grade I and II ankle sprains. Military Medicine, 158, 101–104.

  76. Penzien, D. B., Andrasik, F., Freidenberg, B. M., Houle, T. T, Lake, A. E., 3rd, Lipchik, G. L., Holroyd, K. A., Lipton, R. B., McCrory, D. C., Nash, J. M., Nicholson, R. A., Powers, S. W., Rains, J. C., Wittrock, D. A., & American Headache Society Behavioral Clinical Trials Workgroup. (2005). Guidelines for trials of behavioral treatments for recurrent headache, first edition: American Headache Society Behavioral Clinical Trials Workgroup. Headache, 45(Suppl 2), S110–S132.

  77. Peroutka, S. J. (2005). Neurogenic inflammation and migraine: Implications for therapeutics. Molecular Interventions, 5, 304–311.

  78. Pienkowski, D., Pollack, S. R., Brighton, C. T., & Griffith, N. J. (1992). Comparison of asymmetrical and symmetrical pulse waveforms in electromagnetic stimulation. Journal of Orthopaedic Research, 10, 247–255.

  79. Pienkowski, D., Pollack, S. R., Brighton, C. T., & Griffith, N. J. (1994). Low-power electromagnetic stimulation of osteotomized rabbit fibulae. A randomized, blinded study. Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery–American Volume, 76, 489–501.

  80. Prusinski, A., Wielka, J., & Durko, A. (1988). Pulsating electromagnetic field in the therapy of headache. Journal of Bioelectricity, 7, 127–128.

  81. Ross, J. (1990). Biological effects of pulsing electromagnetic fields using Diapulse. In M. O’Connor, R. Bentall, & J. Monahan (Eds.), Emerging electromagnetic medicine (pp. 269–281). New York: Springier-Verlag.

  82. Salzberg, C. A., Cooper-Vastola, S., Perez, F., Viehbeck, M., & Byrne, D. (1995). The effects of non-thermal pulsed electromagnetic energy (Diapulse) on wound healing of pressure ulcers in spinal cord-injured patients: A randomized, double-blind study. Wounds, 7, 11–16.

  83. Sandyk, R. (1992). The influence of the pineal gland on migraine and cluster headaches and effects of treatment with picoTesla magnetic fields. The International Journal of Neuroscience, 67, 145–171.

  84. Sandyk, R. (1994). Alzheimer’s disease: Improvement of visual memory and visuoconstructive performance by treatment with picotesla range magnetic fields. The International Journal of Neuroscience, 76, 185–225.

  85. Schoenen, J. (2006). Neurophysiological features of the migrainous brain. Neurological Sciences, 27, S77–S81.

  86. Sharrard, W. J. (1990). A double-blind trial of pulsed electromagnetic fields for delayed union of tibial fractures. Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery-British Volume, 72, 347–355.

  87. Sherman, R. A., Acosta, N. M., & Robson, L. (1999). Treatment of migraine with pulsing electromagnetic fields: A double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Headache, 39, 567–575.

  88. Sherman, R., & Karstetter, K. (1991). Potentiation of normal healing of stress fractures using pulsing electromagnetic fields. Three year grant from EBI Medical Systems, Diapulse Corporation, and The U.S. Army’s Medical Research and Material Command.

  89. Sherman, R. A., Robson, L, & Marden, L. A. (1998). Initial exploration of pulsing electromagnetic fields for treatment of migraine. Headache, 38, 208–213.

  90. Shimizu, T., Zerwekh, J. E., & Videman, T. (1988). Bone ingrowth into porous calcium phosphate ceramics: Influence of pulsing electromagnetic field. Journal of Orthopaedic Research, 6, 248–258.

  91. Sidorov, V. D., & Pershin, S. B. (1993). Immunomodulating effect of microwaves and ultrahigh frequency electric field in patients with systemic lupus erythmatosus. Bioelectrochemistry and bioenergetics, 30, 327–330.

  92. Simmons, J. W. (1985). Treatment of failed posterior lumbar interbody fusion (PLIF) of the spine with pulsing electromagnetic fields. Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research, 193, 127–132.

  93. Siniatchkin, M., Averkina, N., Andrasik, F., Stephani, U., & Gerber, W. (2006). Neurophysiological reacitivity before a migraine attack. Neuroscience Letters, 400, 121–124.

  94. Stillings, D. (2004). The theology of electricity: Electricity, alchemy, and the unconscious. In P. J. Rosch & M. S. Markov (Eds.), Bioelectromagnetic medicine. New York: Macel Dekker, Inc.

  95. Suntsov, V. V. (1991). Treatment of acute diffuse otitis externa by low-frequency magnetic field. Vestnik Otorinolaringologii, 6, 35–38.

  96. Takayama, K., Nomura, H., Tanaka, J., Zborowski, M., Harasaki, H., Jacobs, G. B., et al. (1990). Effect of pulsing electromagnetic field on metabolically derived osteoporosis in rats: A pilot study. ASAIO Transactions, 36(3), M426–M428.

  97. Technology Evaluation. (1989). Pulsing electromagnetic fields and fracture management. Medical Department. EBI Medical Systems, Inc.

  98. Varcaccio-Garofalo, G., Carriero, C., Loizzo, M. R., Amoruso, S., & Loizzi, P. (1995). Analgesic properties of EMF therapy in patients with chronic pelvic pain. Clinical and Experimental Obstetrics & Gynecology, 22, 350–354.

  99. Vernon, H., McDermain, C. S., & Hagino, C. (1999). Systematic review of randomized clinical trials of complementary/alternative therapies in the treatment of tension-type and cervicogenic headache. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 7, 142–155.

  100. Wilson, D. (1972). Treatment of soft-tissue injuries by using pulsing electromagnetic field. British Medical Journal, 2, 269–270.

  101. Yasuda, I. (1953). Fundamental aspects of fracture treatment. Journal of the Kyoto Medical Society, 4, 395–406.

  102. Young, S., & Davey, R. (1993). Pilot study concerning the effects of extremely low frequency electromagnetic energy on migraine. International Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, October.

  103. Zienowicz, R. J., Thomas, B. A., Kurtz, W. H., & Orgel, M. G. (1991). A multivariate approach to the treatment of peripheral nerve transection injury: The role of electromagnetic field therapy. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, 87, 122–129.

Download references

Acknowledgments

The authors wish to thank the UWF Office of Sponsored Research for funding that helped make this review project possible and Ms. Sabina Kraewicz for her invaluable assistance with language translation.

Author information

Correspondence to Frank Andrasik.

 

 

Appendix A Table of studies exemplifying the variety of clinical applications of PEMF therapy

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Vincent, W., Andrasik, F. & Sherman, R. Headache Treatment with Pulsing Electromagnetic Fields: A Literature Review. Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback 32, 191–207 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10484-007-9045-7

Download citation

Keywords

  • Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)
  • Headache
  • Pulsing electromagnetic fields (PEMFs)