PEMF refers to pulsed electromagnetic field. This is a type of therapeutic technique that is mostly used in the field of orthopedics. It has found great use in treating non-unions which is a complication of fractured bones whereby the bone fragments fail to heal normally. More use of PEMF has been in controlling post operative pain and edema and also in tissue repair. Thanks to research studies, PEMF osteoporosis therapy is now a possibility for the management of osteoporosis. Patients with osteoporosis have bones with reduced density making them brittle and prone to fractures even with minimal trauma. PEMF has been found to increase bone mineral density and also prevent bone loss. These findings are based on several studies carried out in vitro, that is in the laboratory.Published clinical results have been subsequently brought forth as evidence of the above account.
One study carried out in a West China hospital is evidence of the above. Although the mechanism by which PEMF produces the said results is not clearly understood, several of its effects were clearly observed. First of all, it is necessary to understand certain orthopedic terms that are related to osteoporosis. Osteoblasts are cells that lay down bone tissue while osteoclasts are cells that cause bone resorption. The former is therefore important for bone formation while the latter promotes osteoporosis. In the normal physiological person, the osteoblasts produce two chemical compounds known as cytokines which play a role in the differentiation and functional activation of osteoclasts.These cytokines are namely; receptor activator of nuclear factor kB ligand (RANKL) and osteoprotegerin (OPG). This particular study aimed at investigating the effects of PEMF on RANKL and OPG expression on ovariectomized rats.
After a period of twelve months, the results showed that PEMF increased bone mineral density and prevented loss of bone micro-architecture and strength in rats that had been ovariectomized. The clear overall conclusion was that PEMF can prevent ovariectomy induced bone loss by regulating the expression of RANK and OPG. Rats whose ovaries had been removed were used because they reflected a picture of what typically happens in humans. This is because most of the patients with osteoporosis are post menopausal women whose ovaries no longer play a functional role. Cessation of estrogen production impacts negatively on bone production with results of decreased bone mineral density in such women.
Moreover, osteoporosis may also be induced by several other factors including prolonged use of glucocorticoids. Another study also carried out in Xian Jiatong University in China proved the effective usefulness of PEMF osteoporosis therapy to treat glucocorticoid induced bone loss and osteoporosis. The study investigated the effects of PEMF and dexamethasone (a glucocorticoid) on the proliferation and differentiation of osteoblasts. The results showed that PEMF increased the effects of osteoblasts while dexamethasone decreased these effects. The conclusion made was that PEMF could actually be used to reverse the bone loss effects of dexamethasone.
More similar evidence from different study trials is available. The general conclusion of all of them is that PEMF osteoporosis therapy can be beneficial for management of osteoporosis.